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Meirian Evans is a 5th year medical student and the producer of Tingewick 2021. Here, she throws light on the glorious, sequined world of Oxford medical students’ annual show.

Lanyards emblazoned with pink elephants… students excusing themselves from clinic early to run auditions or build a castle… and this mysterious word: Tingewick.

Tingewick is a pantomime, a charity, a society and the name given to the firm of 30 5th year students who make it all happen. It dates back to 1939 when, in the early stages of the war, the London medical schools closed and the clinical school was established in Oxford to accommodate evacuated students. A group of these students formed the ‘Radcliffe Raspberries’ to provide some wartime Christmas entertainment. After the first pantomime ‘Dick Whittington and his Dog’ proved a roaring success, these students adopted ‘Rita the Pink Elephant’ as their mascot. The society became known as the Tynchwycke Society, after Nicholas Tynchwycke, the first known teacher of medicine in Oxford. Tynchwycke eventually morphed into Tingewick, as it stands today. The pantomime has taken place almost every year since 1940, initially in the Nurses Recreation Room in the old Radcliffe Infirmary before moving to what is now known as Tingewick Hall at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Tingewick is entirely created and starred in by Oxford Medical Students, with a new plot each year, although the format is always much the same: a parody of the medical student experience, set at the John Radcliffe, loosely structured around a well-known work of fiction. Tingewick is an all-singing, all-dancing production full of impressions, medical satire, pop culture humour and jokes slightly too close to the line. And Rita the Pink Elephant always saves the day.

Tingewick is now so much more than a pantomime. In 2007, The Tingewick Trust became a registered charity after the fundraising potential of the pantomime was realised. Medical students on Tingewick Firm now work tirelessly throughout the year to raise money for Oxford Hospitals Charity and one other elected charity. This year, we are supporting Calon Hearts in memory of our friend and fellow medical student Issie. In 2021, we’ve organised raffles, quizzes and ceilidhs, we’ve designed t-shirts and cards, and we’ve taken on the Three Peaks Challenge and a 48h continuous runathon relay up and down Headington Hill. We’ve raised over £20,000, and that’s before we add the money raised from the annual pantomime, which is always our most popular and most successful event.

For the first time this year, the restructured 5th year course meant that Tingewick Firm rotated through the Community block just as pantomime preparations got underway. I cannot emphasise enough how much we loved our primary care attachments, and how much we appreciated your patience in letting us use our lunch breaks to make some edits to the script, to send out the cast list, to choreograph a dance or to visit yet another potential venue. Some of you may have been to Tingewick before – you may even have starred in a production yourselves – but we know that for many of you this autumn was the first time you’d been exposed to the Tingewick tradition.

Tingewick is returning in January after a hiatus in 2020, and we’d love to invite you all along to come and watch. Against all odds, Tingewick has survived wars and now hopefully a pandemic, and remains at the heart of Oxford Medical School. Restrictions at the JR mean that, for the first time ever, Tingewick is taking place outside of the hospital in the Amey Theatre, Abingdon. The essence of the show, however, remains unchanged: a 150-strong cast and a pink elephant there to save the day. This year, the title is ‘Doctor Flu – The Shoe Will Go On’, and it follows the experiences of Rose, a 5th year medical student who is transported by the mysterious Doctor back to pre-pandemic 1996, after covid-19 cancels her own Tingewick production. Will they be able to enjoy the pantomime festivities in the past, or will meddling with time come back to bite them in the present? Tickets are on sale now, so come along to find out!

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.

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