Merry quizmas: Cambridge to take on Oxford and Essex in festive University Challenge series

Can Trinity and Christ’s sleigh this year’s Christmas University Challenge series?


Trinity and Christ’s alumni will take to the buzzers for a snow down against Oriel College Oxford and Essex in a 10 part Christmas themed series. 

Following Trinity Hall’s success, Cambridge is hoping to retain its glory for a second year running. On Monday, Trinity’s graduates will go head to head with Oriel, with a team ranging from Sky News’ political editor Faisal Islam to gastronomy writer and historian Bee Wilson.

Christs will also represent Cambridge on Wednesday against Essex, to form a team which includes Natalie Haynes, an eminent broadcaster, and news correspondent James Reynolds. 

Team Trinity: Professor Sir William Timothy Gowers, Zoe Heron, Faisal Islam and Bee Wilson.

Team Trinity: Professor Sir William Timothy Gowers, Zoe Heron, Faisal Islam and Bee Wilson.

Bee Wilson, who read History at Trinity in the 1990s, told News that “The first year the show was revised I was a student at Trinity, and the college won it. I was quite good friends with some of the people on that team, so I was always aware of it, it’s like it has been around forever,” adding that “It was both really exciting and really, really scary, the reality of the buzzer is even worse than you would imagine.”

Admiring the students who face Paxman’s starters for ten each week, Wilson also said that she “spent a week trying to re-read the whole of Shakespeare”, thinking that “there are always Shakespeare questions, but it didn’t even come up.”

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A starter for ten?

The series, which kicks off tonight at 8 on BBC 2, will begin with Birmingham against UCL, and is sure to be a cracker.

Fourteen teams have braved the petrifying Paxman and his question cards in a fight for the ultimate prize: eternal glory. The distinguished participants include Magdalen College Oxford’s Louis Theroux and financial journalist Martin Lewis, an LSE graduate.

Christ'smas: Kieran West, Nina Gold, Natalie Haynes and James Reynolds form this year's team.

Christ’smas: Kieran West, Nina Gold, Natalie Haynes and James Reynolds form this year’s team.

Last year’s champion Cantab team Trinity Hall was formed by Tom James, a Boat Race and Olympic rower, Olympic time trial cyclist Emma Pooley and Doctor Who actor Dan Starkey. They were led to victory by team captain Adam Mars Jones, an author and literary critic. Defeating Bailol Oxford and Edinburgh, they crushed Hull in the final with 215 points to 65.

Grab a mince pie (or three) and support Trinity on Monday the 21st, and Christ’s on Wednesday the 23rd at 8pm on BBC Two. You’d be crackers to miss it. 

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