Oxford Brookes

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Oxford Brookes
Oxford, England
Current President or Coach Thomas De Bock (2015-18)
Alistair Simpson (2018-2019)
Carlos Calatayud (2019-present)
National championships none

The Oxford Brookes University Quiz Society is a student organisation at Oxford Brookes University dedicated to giving students a platform through which to find, play and organise quizzes. Along with Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick and Southampton, Oxford Brookes has been a regular presence on the British quizbowl circuit in recent years.


Early days

The origins of OBU Quiz Society have been lost to the sands of time. The first recorded quiz activity at Oxford Brookes (founded in 1992) is their appearance on the 1997-98 series of University Challenge, where they beat Warwick in the first round only to lose to eventual semifinalist London School of Economics. Brookes was one of the teams invited to the Invitational Fall Tournament hosted at Oxford in 2000, represented by former Oxford quizzer Neil King, where they finished seventh of thirteen teams.

Brookes remained on the quizzing sidelines for several years before participating in Oxford's Intercollegiate Quiz from 2007 onward, with little success. Then, in 2010, former Oxford and Imperial quizzer and multiple time British and European quizzing champion Ian Bayley became a lecturer at Brookes, and subsequently took over as coach of the quiz team just as quizbowl was beginning to once again find its feet in the United Kingdom.

Sherlaw-Johnson era (2010-2011)

In time for the UK mirror of 2010 SCT, Bayley gathered a team of four quizzers, led by Austin Sherlaw-Johnson and including Joel Davis, Sarah Johnson and Tony McLarin. Joined on occasion by Richard Williams, this was Brookes' first proper quizbowl team. Strong from three wins at SCT, the team of Sherlaw-Johnson, McLarin, Johnson and Williams was the second to represent Brookes on University Challenge in 2010-11.

Wins over Cardiff and the University of the Arts London took them to the best-of-three quarter-finals, where they beat Christ's College Cambridge but lost to Sheffield, then once again by just five points to eventual finalists York. Over the following months, the team gathered form and new players, culminating in a team of Davis, Williams, Nathan Greaves and Patrick Lavelli finishing third at 2011 SCT, notably winning against the York team that had knocked them out of University Challenge.

Ballard-Mayes era (2011-2014)

The whole team left Brookes over the 2011 Summer break, leading to the formation of a brand new team around Dave Ballard and Oxford Brookes club scene legend Steven Mayes at 2011 ACF Fall. The going was rough, recording very few wins, but with Paula Ayres and Simon Joyce the team reached the quarter-finals of the 2014-15 series of University Challenge, where they lost both games.

Despite a general lack of success compared to their predecessors, Brookes began to compete in more tournaments during this period. Dave Ballard competed in a then-record nine tournaments over his four years playing for Oxford Brookes, and when he wasn't working on his history degree or badly hungover from another night in the club (notably missing 2014 BSQC for this reason), Steven Mayes was president of the Quiz Society until his graduation in 2014.

Current era (2014-present)

Dave Ballard and Steven Mayes both graduated in 2014, leaving no regular quizbowl players at Brookes. The Quiz Society remained active, consisting of a group of people attending pub quizzes under the presidency of Andrew Francis, while Ian Bayley continued to prepare teams for University Challenge. Administrative delays caused the prospective UC team to not be confirmed early enough to participate at the UK mirror of 2014 ACF Fall, but it was ready for that year's Penn Bowl mirror.

The tournament was too difficult for a team composed solely of people who had never played quizbowl, and two of the players left before the final game, leaving only Thomas De Bock and Judy Martingale to contest the last match against LSE. De Bock was soon convinced by Bayley to attend Oxford University Quiz Society's weekly practice sessions, continuing the association between the two societies.

Starting from 2015 MUT, Brookes began to enter more quiz tournaments, first by recruiting people from the pub quiz team, then via email when Thomas De Bock was appointed vice president of the society for 2015-16. Brookes hosted the UK mirror of 2016 MLK, allowing the society to purchase its own buzzer set and begin to organise weekly practices. These soon began to pay off, as Brookes won two consecutive matches at 2016 BSQC, the first time they had recorded more than one win in a tournament since the same event two years prior.

A relative dearth of regular-minus tournaments combined with low retention at weekly practice restricted the calendar for Brookes in 2016-17, though both teams escaped the group stages of Oxford ICQ and Brookes A reached the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Merton College. This was also the year Brookes reached University Challenge for the fourth time, led by De Bock along with Inigo Purcell, Pat O'Shea and Emma-Ben Lewis, with Kirsten Etheridge as reserve. This time, the team reached the second round only to be knocked out by eventual finalists Merton College.

For 2017-18, the practice sessions began to pick up a regular audience of a dozen quizzers, including Joe Middleton-Welling and Alistair Simpson. This led to multiple match wins at ACF Fall, EFT, British Academic Novice Tournament and SMT, the last of which resulted in a fifth place finish overall, the best at a full collegiate tournament since 2011. Progress was also evident with a six-match undefeated afternoon in the bottom bracket at 2017 BSQC, and the participation of three Brookes teams in Oxford ICQ. In this tournament, the B team was knocked out in the groups although Brookes C made the second round despite a group stage loss to Merton C, only to lose to Merton A. Brookes A, consisting of De Bock, Simpson, Middleton-Welling and Julia Clark, defeated teams from Jesus, Oriel, Hertford and Magdalen to reach the semi-finals. Yet another loss to eventual champions Merton A was the fourth consecutive time a Brookes team had been knocked out of a single-elimination competition by Merton College.

The final tournament of the season, 2018 BSQC, was the last for both Thomas De Bock and Judy Martingale, who had led the team at various points from 2014. Joined by Joe Middleton-Welling, the trio lost several key games by only a couple of tossups, but won three afternoon games including the tournament closer on a tiebreaker. Playing a Manchester A team with Adam Barr sitting out, De Bock and Middleton-Welling came back from a shaky start to tie the game, whereupon it was decided that the tiebreaker would consist of three tossup-bonus cycles in the main room before the final. The first tossup was converted by Middleton-Welling and the second went dead. The third was negged by Manchester and converted by De Bock, securing the win for Brookes.


Notable previous players (played multiple tournaments)

2017-18 Roster

  • Thomas De Bock (2014-18; President: 2016-18) - likes motorsport; notably Belgian.
  • Judy Martingale (2014-18) - once lived on a boat.
  • Ben Jolliffe (2015-17) - erstwhile biology student.
  • Guy Newbury (2015-17) - played a match having heard the questions before; lost anyway.
  • Kirsten Etheridge (2016-18) - former Oxford student and regular OOT attendant; doing a PhD in Duran Duran.
  • Paul Wyard (2016-18) - quite posh; society's best arts player (except for Joe).
  • Joe Middleton-Welling (2017-18) - in a punk band; likes butterflies; carries a copy of the Decameron.
  • Julia Clark (2017-18) - owns a car; knows some maths.
  • Sean Mizen (2017-18) - actual computer scientist; ridiculously good-looking.
  • Alistair Simpson (2017-18; President: 2018-19) - massive fan of Joanna Lumley; failed to get either tossup on her in practice.
  • Tom Brown (2017) - trash specialist; terrific bass voice.
  • Arthur Chamberlain (2018) - communicates through Charlotte; gets rogue buzzes at the best times.
  • Charlotte Woolrych (2018) - Arthur's main contact point; actually knows classics, English lit and Garcia Lorca.
  • Dalal El Laham (2018) - valiantly fought for the lost cause of Brookes C against Merton B.
  • Jacob Springall (2017-18) - ski jumping and geography specialist; from the Midlands; will bring this up.
  • Kriss Sprules (2018) - most organised person in the society; is/has been a YouTuber, writer, actor, comedian, screenwriter, professional wrestler and wrestling promoter; studies law.

Tournaments hosted