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A Beacon to All Who Love Liberty: A Concert in Memory of Ruth First. Durham Cathedral, 24 October 2022 at 7.00pm

A Beacon to All Who Love Liberty: A Concert in Memory of Ruth First

Durham Cathedral, 24 October 2022 at 7.00 pm

Organised by Durham University, Durham Cathedral and the Ruth First Educational Trust


A concert to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of South African anti-apartheid campaigner, journalist and Durham University lecturer Ruth First. The event will celebrate her life and work, remember all who suffered under apartheid, and express hope for the future of southern Africa. It will also raise funds for the University’s Ruth First Scholarship.

Ruth First played an important role in the struggle against apartheid and other abuses of human rights in Africa. She exposed violence and exploitation through fearless investigative journalism and campaigned tirelessly for truth and freedom. She was killed by the South African police in August 1982.

In exile since 1964, Ruth worked as a lecturer in Sociology at Durham University between 1973 and 1978. A research project in Mozambique led to an appointment at the Centre for African Studies at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. It was there that she received the letter bomb that took her life.

On the 10th anniversary of her death, Nelson Mandela declared that “Ruth spent her life in the service of the people of Southern Africa. She went to prison for her beliefs. She was murdered because of her acute political acumen combined with her resolute refusal to abandon her principles. Her life, and her death, remains a beacon to all who love liberty.”

The scholarship for South African students set up by staff and students at Durham University in 1964 was renamed in memory of Ruth First after her death. In 2007, the scope of the scholarship was widened to include applicants from across southern Africa who show academic potential and capacity for community leadership. Recent Ruth First Scholars have come from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana, completing Masters degrees in Conflict Prevention, Internet Systems, Educational Assessment, Social Work, Public Health and Medical Anthropology. The University is proud to maintain Ruth’s legacy through this valuable scholarship, with the support of St Chad’s College and Durham County Council.

Memories of Ruth’s presence in Durham are also being preserved by a research project based in the University’s Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS). The Celebrating Ruth First project is collecting documentation relating to her work at the University and focusing on her as an inspiring example of activist research – combining political commitment with rigorous scholarship. The project team is also organising a small exhibition about Ruth’s life and work in the University in October.

The legendary Soweto Gospel Choir won the 2019 Grammy World Music Award for their album Freedom, a collection of uplifting songs celebrating the struggle for freedom in South Africa and honouring Nelson Mandela. Their performance in the unique setting of Durham Cathedral is a very special stop on their global Freedom Tour.


Soweto Gospel Choir:

Ruth First Scholarship:

Celebrating Ruth First Project:

Durham University: