University Challenge


Hull alum runners-up in Christmas University Challenge final

A team of distinguished Hull graduates were runners-up in the Christmas University Challenge final.

The team of four, who faced Balliol, Oxford, were: dog trainer, author and TV presenter Graeme Hall; author Katharine Norbury, historian and broadcaster Sarah Peverley, and actor Sian Reese-Williams.

Taking to Twitter after the final, Sian, said: “Beaten by the better team and the loveliest people. We had a lovely pizza together afterwards and there was much love. But so so proud of Team Hull. Thank you for watching – I will never forget it.” Sian, who captained the Hull team, also posted on Twitter after the semi-final and described the challenge as “one of the best experiences of my life”.

After beating the University of the West of England Bristol and the University of York in the semi-final, the team were finally beaten by Balliol. The Balliol team included: Elizabeth Kiss, Warden of Rhodes House, University of Oxford and CEO of the Rhodes Trust; Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK; Martin Edwards, crime writer and president of the Detection Club; Martin O’Neill, Professor at the University of York.

Hull graduate Sarah Peverley, who is a Professor at the University of Liverpool, competed in the final, when James Graham, was not able to take part.

James, who studied drama at Hull in the class of 2003, had competed in the previous rounds and semi-final. James is well-known for his recent crime drama series Sherwood for BBC1 which brought the miners’ strike of 1984 back into focus. His other celebrated work includes Quiz, the play and drama series centred around the true story of Charles Ingram and the coughing scandal that surrounded his 2001 win on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The other members of the Hull team were: Katharine, author of The Fish Ladder, the deeply moving story of an adoptee's search for personal identity. Katharine studied English and History of Art at the University of Hull.

chrismas challenge Twitter pic
The teams from the University of Hull and Balliol, Oxford are pictured with University Challenge host Jeremy Paxman after the Christmas special final

Sian, who studied drama at Hull alongside James Graham, was a regular on popular soap Emmerdale from 2008 to 2013 and more recent credits include Holby City and Silent Witness.

Graeme, who read Hispanic Studies at Hull, is now known as ‘The Dogfather’ and has been described by The Telegraph as “Britain’s best dog trainer’. He travels the country helping dog and puppy owners with behaviour problems and is the presenter of hit Channel 5 show Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly.

Sarah Peverley is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool where she teaches Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Her research focuses on literature produced during The Wars of the Roses, on medieval manuscripts and early books, and on mermaids in literature and art. Sarah studied English Literature at Hull, graduating with a BA Hons in 1998. She then stayed on at Hull for her PhD in medieval literature, graduating again in 2004.

After the final, Sarah tweeted: “Massive congratulations to Team Balliol on a secure victory! It was great fun and I didn't want it to end. Thanks also to Team Hull for being fab companions!”

The Hull team scored 70 points, while the Balliol team were victorious with 165 points.

Chaired by Jeremy Paxman for the final time, this year’s Christmas University Challenge series featured 56 alumni from 14 universities competing for the coveted champions title.

Each team has competed in one of seven first round matches, after which the four teams with the highest winning scores faced each other in two semi-finals.

Contestants on this year’s series included BBC News presenter Reeta Chakrabarti, stand-up comedian Ivo Graham, and gold medal-winning paracyclist Neil Fachie.


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