Vick Hope: Room 8 4PT, Emmanuel
Vick Hope (Emmanuel 2007) and third-year geographer Robyn Topper, discuss the demands of work, play and flying under the porters’ radar.
Vick Hope’s fourth year was not without its challenges. As a linguist, she had spent her third year in Argentina working for national newspapers and getting her first break as an MTV presenter. But back in Cambridge, she promptly broke her leg playing football – and had to make a temporary move out of Room 8 4PT (the twisty staircase was one challenge too many).
“I didn’t like leaving it,” she recalls. “This room was my haven and doing it up was really therapeutic. I put fabric all around the walls. I made curtains out of scarves I’d found in a Moroccan souk, plus pictures and posters I found in Argentina.”
Third-year geographer and current occupant, Robyn Topper, shares Hope’s love of decoration. Today, the walls of 8 4PT are lined with photos of friends, family and pets. “It’s exactly as Vick says: a haven. That’s why I moved the desk away from the window. I felt like I needed a separation of where I work and where I relax.”
Having the desk against the wall also frees up the window seat – with stunning view across Parker’s Piece. Sadly, the window no longer opens sufficiently to allow students to climb out and sit on the roof. “I suspect that’s our fault,” Hope sighs. “It probably wasn’t great for health and safety.” Her 21st birthday party also fell foul of the rules: at one point, she says, she managed to cram 30 family and friends into her room. “And we put up a gazebo in the grounds! I rather hoped it would fly under the porters’ radar, but no chance… ”
Memories of parties and the exact positioning of beds sparks a discussion around getting enough sleep – a big issue for Hope, who currently has to get up at 4.30am every day to be ready for Capital Radio’s breakfast show at 6am. Topper’s sleep aids include pillow spray and a speaker under her pillow playing calming music.
“I didn’t value self-care at all at uni,” says Hope. “I never ate well or exercised. It just didn’t cross my mind. It was only in my fourth year that I started to place more importance on it. When you have loads to do, you almost feel guilty for looking after yourself. I still remember sitting in this room, crying on the phone to my boyfriend that I needed to revise and all I could do was play Tetris!”
Topper agrees that it can be hard balancing work and play. “You only get eight weeks, after all, and I love my subject. Geography has given me the opportunity to do so many different things. Learning about inequality and neoliberalism, for example, has made me realise that I don’t want to go into finance. I’ve got an interview for a job in transport planning and I’m really excited to see where that might go. But you can think it’s the end of the world when you’ve watched loads of episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ll binge-watch and then think: ‘Oh no, is that a good use of my time?’”
“But you’ve spent that time doing something that you enjoyed,” says Hope. “Sometimes you’ve got to say: this is a day off, this is a holiday. When I was here, my thing was America’s Next Top Model. If I was at uni now, it would definitely be RuPaul!”
These days, Hope says she’s a lot less hard on herself. “Coming back today was a little bit scary. But I’ve had time to process my Cambridge experience. It was very daunting when I arrived; I’d never seen a place that looked like this. I had to work hard to justify to myself that it wasn’t a mistake and that I did deserve to be here – I think that’s something you have throughout life.”
Vick Hope is a radio and TV presenter, and currently co-hosts Capital FM’s breakfast radio show. Robyn Topper is an unashamed fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Our LGBT officer has been doing weekly screenings in his room! So now I know that I’m not alone and actually everyone is watching it… ”