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Thanks for the Memories, Wellcome-funded public engagement project led by Prof. Paul Klenerman and composer Dr Zakiya Leeming, hosted an innovative evening of music and science at the Tingewick Hall, John Radcliffe Hospital, on 5th June.

Students from Greyfriars School stand in front of the stage in the concert hall.

Over several months this Spring, Year 9 students at Greyfriars Catholic School have been introduced to the topic of immune memory, and the history of viruses and vaccines, by Prof. Paul Klenerman and a team of research staff from the University of Oxford. Students have then been mentored by Dr Zakiya Leeming to write their own musical compositions inspired by this topic.

Students collaborated with University of Oxford musicians – Erin Townsend, Guili Tritto, Lulu Whittington, Tom Burges, and Ynyr Prichard – to bring these pieces to life. The concert showcased 19 new musical explorations that displayed the students’ creativity and enthusiasm: from pieces exploring the shapeshifting nature of viruses, the experience of illness, and how scientific research develops across time.

5 musicians (clarinet, saxophone, viola, double bass and guitar) on stage at the T4TM concert while audience watchesDr Zakiya Leeming

Members of the Greyfriars, University, and John Radcliffe communities joined to celebrate the achievement of the students. Dr Leeming reflected that the students ‘rose to the challenge of taking on new learning in two different areas – composition and immunology, and each synthesised these in unique ways to create their own artistic response. The range of both conceptual and musical ideas demonstrated how quickly they had taken to the process of working with the Oxford University musicians to realise their ideas. I hope to hear more of their work in the future!’ Prof. Klenerman echoed this admiration of the students’ achievement: ‘It has been an exciting joint project working with Greyfriars and I enjoyed very much seeing how the topic of infection and immunity came to life in their hands – I hope this will have inspired some to come and study with us at the University in future.’

Greyfriars’ Assistant Headteacher Sean Dingley, who has collaborated with the project throughout, shared: ‘Thanks for the Memories has been such a wonderful experience for our students – it filled me with such pride when Zakiya referred to them as composers!’ For Headteacher Lyndsey Caldwell: ‘It has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to experience being composers, and with such esteemed academics. To be able to blend music, science and history together into something so spectacularly creative has been a delight.  We are grateful for all of the people who have collaborated in this project. We are so proud of our Greyfriars Composers!’.

Thanks for the Memories now looks ahead to the project’s second phase: a new opera by Dr Leeming informed by immune memory, showcasing at the Royal Northern College of Music in June 2025.

Prof Klenerman speaking into a microphone in front of the stage.