Employee Profile: Meet our team!

Name: Adam Illes
Title: Trainee Domestic Supervisor
Start Date: August 2016
Promotions: 1

Adam in January 2017 after winning newcomer of the year.

Job Title Changes / Transfers: 3

What I like about Westminster:

Westminster College for me is like a big family. What is good about a family? Every member of the family cares about each other. It doesn’t matter if it is a professional or a personal issue that you come across, you can count on your colleagues.

You are heard at Westminster College. There are no bad ideas, only ideas that needs more time to put it in action. You can develop yourself in different ways because they provide the resources for that. The college appreciates hard work.

I often don’t even feel like I am at work – I feel I am at a place with different people from different countries. This diversity makes us so unique, especially so close to Brexit. We work together to make everybody’s stay in Cambridge pleasant, to make a company’s conference effective and efficient, or make a couple’s wedding their most memorable day of their life. I have to say this last example is my favourite as I really enjoy working weddings.

My favourite thing is going the “extra mile” for anybody. Sometimes the little things mean a lot, and I think I have good skills to detect these. Because on the end of a little effort I can see the joy and the overall satisfaction, or that small half smile what proves to me I did something right.

What an average day is like…

We haven’t got average days at Westminster College. Every day is special in its own way. No day is the same, which is sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes isn’t! Obviously we have our daily routine, which starts with a nice cup of coffee and a couple of words with anybody who also needs their daily caffeine input. On a general day I supervise the catering assistants work, and make sure all of our guests get the maximum of the famous Westminster breakfast experience. Then I brief the housekeepers about their daily jobs, check conferences and B&B rooms, communicate with the kitchen, and pay maximum attention to everyone’s queries with the aim of exceeding their expectations.

On a bad day…

When I need to face any challenges I always give myself a minute or so to think it through, count from 0-10, take a big breath and go for it. Sometimes the biggest problems only require common sense and a little patience to solve them. Although this is not always the case, for instance when there’s a lack of ice 5 min before the disco kicks off with an open bar! In these cases you need to think very quickly, step up effectively and act straight away. But I have an ultimate weapon against anything that is always with me, it is free and inexhaustible: a smile!!! It might not solve the problem but it still feels good to do.

The Woolf Institute’s Royal Opening

On Monday 16th April, our neighbours over at the Woolf Institute were celebrating a Royal opening of their permanent home on this site. The Woolf Institute was founded in 1998 by Dr Edward Kessler and Reverend Professor Martin Forward. The aim was to provide an ‘academic framework and space in which people could tackle issues of religious difference constructively’.

HRH The Princess Royal arriving with Dr Ed Kessler.

HRH The Princess Royal, the Patron of the Capital Appeal, and supporter of the Woolf Institute was welcomed to the site by Dr Ed Kessler MBE, Founding Director of the Woolf Institute.

In his speech, Dr Kessler said “The brief research presentations demonstrate a pursuit of wisdom, understanding and knowledge, not for their own sake but rather, to foster a society at ease with itself, in which individuals, groups and communities feel at home, and in whose flourishing all wish to take part.  Our new home will house many such actions; in the UK, with new research projects on religious fundamentalism and building resilience in Muslim communities, new courses on migration and immigration as well as a summer school, new audiences reached through our media suite such as the new podcast series, ‘Encounter’”.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the hard work and dedication it took to bring the Woolf Institute to life in its new home, and the continuous work to educate and bring communities together to coexist peacefully.

To read the full speech and see pictures from the special day, please visit:


Castlebrae, the twins’ home!

Castlebrae, 13th April 2018

What an inspiring site visit today!

A small group of domestic bursars interested in our co-founders, the twin-sisters,  were on their second-leg of their discovery journey. We met today at the Colony, a site owned by Clare College for centuries now. There we were welcome by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Clare team whose housekeeper was genuinely delighted to show us around today! http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/The-Colony-2/

Castlebrae was built between 1888-1890 to the partial design of S.S. Lewis and by Marshall & Vickrs architects of Bedford square in London. The land was leased for 125 years by our famous co-founder Agnes Lewis and her husband, and her twin sister Margaret Gibson after becoming a widow suddenly. Their life was well captured in Janet Soskice’s book ‘Sisters of Sinai’, a video for the ones who haven’t read it yet – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSVPUU8unms

I attach some picture to show the excellent efforts by Coulson and Clare College to revive and restore this stunning building. It now offers 26 student bedrooms but it has conserved some of its quirkiness, a grand job!

We never saw the infamous ghost (apparently of a maid sitting on the bed), I will remember a warm, welcoming and beautiful gem’ that truly feels like it could be on Westminster College, it is in keeping with the sisters’ exquisite style.


Contact me mg609@cam.ac.uk , if you would like further details.

All best,


We’re getting ready…

If you’re working with any data, you’ll no doubt be aware that the new General Data Protection Regulations are coming on 25th May.

We’ve been working busily in the background to get prepared for it and you might soon get an email from us on the topic. We’ll also be making a few small but important changes to our website, both as part of our work to prepare for the changes and also to make finding what you’re looking for a little easier.

Stay tuned for more!

Employee Profile: Meet our team!

Thinking of Westminster College as your future employer? We thought it would be nice for you to meet all our support team, and show off all the amazing things they do for the college and why they like working here!

Meet Emma, our PA to the Bursar and Office Manager.

Name: Emma Brown
Title: PA to the Bursar and Office Manager
Start Date: September 2009
Promotions: 2
Job Title Changes / Transfers: 3

What I like about Westminster…
No two days are ever the same.
It’s a bit of a mixed blessing this one! As a relatively small organisation, we’re quite a tight knit family and it means we all pitch in wherever help is needed; many of us hold more than one title, and those who do have one title have a fairly diverse set of things to do. Those of us who’ve been around for a few years have knowledge about things which might not be anything to do with our job title. If something needs to get done, we’ll find a way of doing it, and doing it well.

Working for a non-profit organisation.
Any surplus is invested back into either the people or the building. I’m really proud of that; it makes the occasionally long, challenging days very worthwhile. Every penny we make enables us to invest in the future.

We’re very much an equal opportunity employer.
We’ve a very diverse team here, with people from a multitude of countries, all bringing their own unique experiences to add to the Westminster experience. The thing which stands out most for me, as a woman in management, is that our current management team has more women than men – that is unusual even in these times, but most particularly in a Cambridge college. We invest in our people, so it is natural to see internal promotions or transfers; I started as a temp for 2 weeks. Since then, with my most recent role change being from PA to the Principal to PA to the Bursar back in October 2015, I’ve had quite a few changes within what I do as part of my dual roles of Office Manager and PA as the college and the team have grown. I’m also really proud to work for an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer, which is one of only two Cambridge colleges which pays the Living Wage, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation. That’s phenomenal!

We’re not afraid of change.
We don’t “do something that way because it’s always been done that way”. It’s important that we acknowledge our history and legacy – why we’ve done something that way before – but it’s also important to constantly reform. Both as part of the United Reformed Church, and as a forward thinking organisation! I started here when we had 2 full time members on Reception (including me), opening the building at 8.30am and closing up as we left at 4.30pm, closed at weekends. We’re now open 7am to 11pm, seven days a week and I manage a team of 5 to cover reception. Back when I started, we didn’t have any en-suite bedrooms – it was all shared facilities along draughty corridors – and our building was beautiful but in need of some serious updating in many different ways. After raising £7 million, we underwent a major building refurbishment and we’ve now got 38 bedrooms and 2 cottages, all en-suite. Gone are the days where we had an occasional overnight guest alongside our students. The extra income from B&B goes back into keeping Westminster sustainable for our students and the URC, and into ensuring we look after our Grade 2 listed building – she’s a gentle creature and we need to nurture and protect her!

The food!
I’m not going to lie, a lot of us put on a few pounds when we start working here! The food is delicious and I get fed a very tasty two course lunch every day during the week. They cater for my rather weird dietary requirements; though I should try harder to resist pudding, making the healthy choice is incredibly difficult when you’ve got Igor’s chocolate brownie in front of you…

What an average day is like…
There’s no such thing! I oversee Reception, and whilst we certainly have daily tasks to do, our focus is customer service, be that interactions with our students as they collect their post, welcoming in a contractor arriving to service a piece of plant, directing conference delegates to their meeting room or checking in our B&B guests. People, by their nature, are all different and have different needs and expectations. We try to anticipate what they need and exceed their expectations. That, in turn, makes every day different. Then we get queries and challenges that, even with 8 years under my belt, haven’t come up before.

On a ‘bad day’…
They do happen to us all occasionally! I try to do three things.

Firstly, look back to my very first day and remember how many positive changes we’ve been through. Even the very hard changes have lead to new opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.

Secondly, I spend a moment just quietly in our stunning chapel. I’m not a Christian, but I’ve always adored churches and cathedrals, and simply being in such a beautiful, spiritually rich space recharges the batteries.

Thirdly, I visit the sisters. They were rather phenomenal women with a very quirky, rich history and fascinating lives. Their portraits hang in our Dining Hall, so we eat with them looking over us most lunch times. In a world which didn’t allow them to attend university or get a degree, they let very little hold them back from doing exactly what they wanted to; i.e travelling through the desert on camel back fully garbed in their Victorian outfits, complete with their china tea set. I visit them because I like to think that we continue their legacy. They would certainly not have let a singular tricky email (letter?) or long, difficult meeting get to them so why should I?

(PS – the photo is of me on my wedding day in June 2014 and proves that I do, ever so occasionally, wear bright colours)

Keep up to date with our blog to meet more of our team!

A Passion to Inspire

Our team at Westminster are always achieving great things!

Last Thursday, our Trainee Domestic Supervisor Adam and Trainee Chef Igor, took part in ‘A Passion to Inspire’’s competition.

A Passion to Inspire, founded by Murray Chapman, was initially developed to help bring education and industry together. Supporting, nurturing and encouraging students to have passion and belief for their chosen career is the main aim of the charity, run by fantastic volunteers.

Adam (Front of House) and Igor (Chef) were asked to present a main course, dessert and cocktail to guests and judges, with their own menu, dressed table and fine service.

Featured here is Adam’s cocktail ‘Old Thyme Sour’ we posted about a couple of weeks ago!

Adam and Igor came 2nd out of the 4 teams, making us all at Westminster very proud!

For more information on what they do, visit ‘A Passion to Inspire’ at their Website,  Facebook,  Twitter 


A few words from Peter Ball – Director of Church Resource Development

From the 19th-21st January I was at the URC Youth Assembly running workshops and enjoying the opportunity to meet and share with a host of different people from across the denomination.
The first of the new Westminster College Draw Breath and Reflect Upon days took place on March 24th with the theme of Aspects of the cross. The day was a mixture of reflection, personal space and some input from the leaders of the day.  Various options were offered to help people think about how then cross impacts on their daily lives and then space to develop thinking. The pictures are of one participants response in the form of a painting and a cross that we used as part of reflection in the afternoon.


Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!

Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!
It is a rich and fascinating experience that has welcomed, celebrated and included me from the day I began. Walking with me as I grow in the journey of faith, whilst also enabling me to learn effectively by supporting my needs.

Studying scripture here has allowed me to work through why I believe what I do and how we are all able to discuss, evolve and change as part of a living tradition responding to a living word. Whilst on retreat together in January 2018, the community were reminded by our Principal,  Neil Thorogood of our connection with many people of faith from the past, present and the future. Whilst reflecting on this I was reminded of the journey that has brought me to Westminster.

Before coming here, I was a store manager for WH Smith in a busy Hospital in East London, whilst also being a Church Elder and volunteer youth leader in the little ‘spare’ time I had. I have been able to bring all my life experiences with me sharing with others.

We learn with and from each other, day by day. With many opportunities to interact with peers from around the world. Whom represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
It is a blessing to be here!”

by Stephen Ansa-Addo – student, Westminster College

A Gift of a Wedding

Our team is always going the extra mile to help others…

Alison & Andy Wedding, by Lorna Newman Wedding Photography, www.lornanewmanweddings.com, Gift of a Wedding

In February, our Domestic Manager and Wedding co-ordinator, Hannah Anderson donated her time as a wedding planner to an amazing charity, Gift of a Wedding, www.giftofawedding.org . UK-based, they organise free wedding services for couples with a terminal illness by getting professionals to donate their times, goods or/and services generously. As their wedding planner, Hannah liaised with the other suppliers and the charity in less than a week before the couple’s big day!

The wedding took place on Friday 9th February at the beautiful Woughton House Hotel, situated in Milton Keynes, part of the group Accor, www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-6627-woughton-house-mgallery-by-sofitel/index.shtml .

Alison and Andy were surrounded by all their close family and friends, and were provided with a beautiful and smoothly run day. On their very special and emotional day, Hannah worked tiresomely the entire day to make sure everyone was where they needed to be, everything was in place and that the loving couple had an amazing day like any brides and grooms she has been dealing with for the past 10 years.

You have made another dream come true for the happy couple.

Thank you Hannah for all your hard work, dedication and passion for our industry – the Hospitality Industry has a big heart with this shining star!


Photo Credits: Lorna Newman Weddings