The London School of Economics has its fair share of notable Alumni - famous in business, international organisations and politics (for both good and bad reasons...)
Cast that net even further however, and you will hear the tale of an LSE student, whose Professor prophesised that he would be known for something other than his antics at LSE: "What you want to do is write." He went on to be selected by his peers as one of Britain's most influential journalists of the past four decades.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Bernard Levin, the controversial commentator - famed for his intellectual and stinging commentaries on politics and political figures of all persuasions - but despite passing away nearly eight years ago, he will not be forgotten.
A number of his old friends, including David Kingsley OBE and Sir John Burgh, set out to establish a journalism award in his memory, at the very institution where they first met, the LSE. On Tuesday 8 May, students, media professionals and friends of Bernard met for the annual presentation of the Bernard Levin Award, to celebrate his work and that of current students.
The award, now in its seventh year, seeks to squeeze out the creative juices in LSE students - hopefully leaving their academic acumen intact as they approach their summer exams - tasking them to write one thousand words on the "benefits to an LSE student of the intellectual, cultural, political, professional, business, media or entertainment life surrounding the School's campus". They can write in any style that they choose, but must bear in mind Bernard's style of writing. That in itself is half the challenge.
Bernard was a regular columnist for The Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, New Statesman and Spectator, and was a notable participant in the TV programme That Was The Week That Was. He also had a great passion for the theatre, and opera in particular. True to 'Bernard's style', the winner of the award receives an internship with a national media organisation as well as dinner and theatre tickets for two in the West End. Previous winners of the Award have followed Bernard's career path having interned with The Times and The Daily Mail, and we were really pleased to announce the BBC as our sponsor this year.
With nearly 50 entries in 2012, the award has grown substantially in interest since it was founded and the Presentation was a great opportunity to celebrate. The winning entry from Tom Heyden Befriending a Future Dictator was agreed by the Judges to be similar to the tongue in cheek style of Bernard, with a different twist on a topical subject.
Despite not knowing Bernard, the anecdotes from his close friends like Sir John Burgh, David Kingsley, Ian Hay Davison and Keith Mackrell brought him to life; the tale of Bernard persuading Keith to let him take his girlfriend out to the theatre on the grounds that he would soon be incarcerated for being a conscientious objector at a time of national service (only for Bernard to dodge these duties by charming the judge at his court hearing); striking a deal with a lady who refused him dinner unless he donated to charity; and of course his notable relationship with Arianna Huffington herself.
With these stories in mind, Sir John Burgh provided his last bit of advice to students, rounding off evening in the words of Bernard: "You can break every grammatical and syntactical rule consciously when, and only when, you have rendered yourself incapable of breaking them unconsciously".
The Bernard Levin Award is run voluntarily with the help of numerous Alumni and students and relies heavily on donations. With the help of the LSE Students' Union, costs are kept to a minimum but donations are crucial and would be hugely appreciated. If you would like to support the award please contact LSE Students' Union at firstname.lastname@example.org, making any cheques payable to "LSE Students' Union" with a clear reference to the Bernard Levin Award.
For more information on Bernard Levin - including the 2012 Presentation Booklet, all of this year's entries, TV footage of Bernard and examples of his work - please see the LSE Students' Union Bernard Levin Award page.
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