Spotlight on Charlotte Ballinger
10 December 2014
This week the spotlight is on Charlotte Ballinger, Chaplain & Interfaith Advisor, UCL.
What is your role and what does it involve?
My role is quite varied; I see students (and staff) individually to discuss issues or problems that they're dealing with - sometimes, though not necessarily, relating to faith.
I run a weekly meditation group and a lunch for medical students. I also organise events around interfaith dialogue and relationships, and trips to places of worship, and to talks and exhibits concerning faith and ethics.
In addition to my work at UCL, I'm an Associate Priest at St Pancras Church on Euston Road, where I take services on Sundays and do various other things throughout the week.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I started at UCL in September 2013. Before that, I was a curate (an assistant member of the clergy) in a church in Barnet in north London. That could involve anything and everything - visiting local schools, leading adult discussion groups, running a youth group, running a toddler group, taking weddings and funerals, keeping the church website up to date, as well as doing lots of visiting people in their homes. It is a cliché, but no day was ever the same.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I'm not sure "proud" is the word, but I'm most privileged in what I am able to do as a priest. In particular, I'm privileged in being able to take baptisms, weddings and funerals. Being with people at the really important times in their lives and those of their families - the birth of a child, a marriage, a death - is such an privilege. It's wonderful to be able to do that for friends and family, as well: next weekend I'm taking the wedding of someone I grew up with and who I've known since I was born.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?
At the moment, Christmas services are my "project" - next week I have a carol service every night! One of them is the carol service which has been organised by UCLU Societies and is held at St Pancras Church. Then, St Pancras also hosts carol services for some big charities, like the British Lung Foundation and the Anthony Nolan Trust. Then there are of course the services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. Luckily I love Christmas carols!
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album - Radiohead, OK Computer.
Film - E.T. I still cry when ET has to go back to the spaceship and tells Drew Barrymore to "be good".
Novel - Atonement by Ian McEwan.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
Do you know the best advice anyone's ever given me? It was: Charlotte, don't name drop. Prince Charles told me that.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Yotam Ottolenghi - I have his Jerusalem cookbook and I love all the insights he gives into his life growing up in the Middle East; and he could probably give me a hand in the kitchen!
Paula Radcliffe - I'm training for my third marathon now and as she's still the female world record holder for the marathon, I'd love to get her advice.
Timothy Radcliffe (whom I don't think is related to Paula) - a Dominican monk whose books on spirituality are readable yet incredibly insightful, and who is a fantastic speaker.
Caitlin Moran, because she's brilliant. And my fiancé, because I can get in a bit of a flap when I'm cooking for lots of people and he always calms me down.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Read more novels instead of watching endless repeats of Friends.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I know the lyrics to almost every Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical.
What is your favourite place?
Venice, in the winter.