Catching up with alumna and entrepreneur Sally Bunkham

Entrepreneur and graduate Sally Bunkham (2002 BA(Hons) Cultural and Historical Studies) talks about her experiences while studying at the University of Brighton and how she turned a negative experience into a positive and started her own business!

“I ended up at University of Brighton a bit by accident…and what a lovely accident it was! I had almost given up on going to university when I didn’t get the grades I wanted at A Level. My pal persuaded me to give clearing a go. We stuck a pin on the list and it ended up pointing at Brighton, on a course called “Historical and Cultural Studies”. ‘Why not?’ I thought.

“Brighton felt a million miles away from my sleepy Lincolnshire hometown. I remember walking through the streets and thinking how colourful everything was. Tattoos, piercings and amazing eclectic fashion everywhere! I was daunted but immediately loved it. I made some fantastic friends in Varley Halls, who I still remain close to today.

“I remember how fabulously ‘right on’ my course felt. We were taught to question the world we live in and to look back on history in a totally fresh way. It was nothing like the history I was taught in secondary school. It was modern and it was exciting. It really made me see how the history of yesterday shapes our modern world…it still continues to do so. I remember being fascinated by what I learnt about Stalinist Russia. I have particularly nostalgic memories of watching and studying the Russian art film “The Mirror” by Tarkosvy. It was deliciously different and more beautiful than any of the stuff I’d learnt in school.

“Being at university taught me to talk to everyone. I flourished being in those diverse surroundings. It felt like a bit like everyone could belong because everyone was a bit of a misfit. I was in my element!

“One memory that stands out is my lovely best friend and housemate accidentally deleting my dissertation the night before it was due to be handed in. It was back in the day of floppy disks and we clearly weren’t very computer literate. There was a mass panic in our house and myself, my best pal Tash and my other pal Simon sat all night typing it up again from my handwritten notes. That night taught me to be calm and use humour in the face of adversity, and that if you all pull together, you can achieve a lot! My dissertation was handed in on time the next day. We still all have a laugh about that night to this day and they remain my closest friends.

“I was sad to graduate as it meant those fabulous 3 years were over. I tried to live in London but I missed Brighton too much and was back within a year. I had a brief stint in sales before finding a job working at The University of Sussex and working in events. I met my husband, Paul, in 2007 in the crowd of a Primal Scream set at Bestival. Despite meeting on the Isle of Wight we were delighted to discover we both lived in Brighton. We married in 2013 and had our first daughter, Daisy in 2014. Rather crazily we discovered I was pregnant again when my first daughter was only just 3 months old. So in 2015 I had 2 daughters under 2 (nearly under 1). I was flung into motherhood and I soon realised it was to be the second biggest life changing event I would encounter thus far (after moving to Brighton to go to university!).

“Rather sadly, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression following my second daughter. It was a bleak time, but bizarrely provided the inspiration for my career now. I am the founder and CEO of We provide hamper gifts for new mums, focussing on all the yummy stuff we’re not allowed whilst pregnant. I got the idea following my back to back pregnancies missing all the stuff I wasn’t allowed! It also dawned on me that all the gifts I received as a new mum (although lovely) were all focussed on the baby. I thought there should be more that recognises the crazy journey of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood that us mums go on. We are also a social enterprise, and £1 from every hamper goes to PANDAS Foundation, who support families going through perinatal mental health issues.

“Things are going really well and we’ve been featured a number of times in some great publications like The Independent, The Guardian, The Metro and We are also a partner of Mum’s Back has been on the TV and radio a number of times speaking out about the importance of maternal mental health awareness, and I’m absolutely loving turning something rather negative that happened in my life into something so positive.”

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Homes for Christmas designed by graduates

Two University of Brighton graduates have designed the UK’s largest temporary accommodation development – providing emergency accommodation for up to 288 people before Christmas.

John Smith and Roman Schneker both studied architectural technology and now run Cityzen, the Sustainable Architecture & Engineering practice in Portslade.

They designed the development reusing shipping containers, for Sussex based developers QED. The 60-apartments delivered in Acton, West London, for Ealing Council include 32 with two bedrooms, 20 with one bedroom and also eight studio homes. Each has its own kitchenette, shower room, and front door. There will also be a management office and laundry unit.

The apartments are based around Cityzen’s modular design of one, two and three adjoining units. Cityzen produced 315 drawings and each container build was tracked from the design process, through to the factory construction and to delivery on site. Cityzen designed not only the apartments but the building services in the apartments, and utilities to site.

John said: “It was a tough challenge, given just 10 months from first concept sketch to tenants moving in, and we’re proud to have played a part in helping Ealing Council provide homes before Christmas for people who would otherwise be in B&Bs or moved to another borough.”

John started out as a building services engineer but was continually being asked to look at the fabric and design of building to improve the performance. He saw that energy and sustainability were coming to the fore in the building industry so in 2003 he moved to Brighton to train at the University. Roman studied the same course at the School of Environment and Technology as he wanted to engage with the science of architecture and how buildings are built.

John said: “Both of us found the course helped with our career progression, and since graduating we have both become Chartered Members of the Institute of Architectural Technologists.”

John started Cityzen in 2010 and it became a limited company in 2017. John and Cityzen have mentored six placement students from the University of Brighton. Roman was one of these students and he later joined Cityzen as a Senior Architectural Technologist. For the past year he has been leading technical design on the firm’s modular and housing projects.

John has been working on container designs since 2005, being the subject of his dissertation. Cityzen have been assisting QED developing container design solutions since 2012. John said: “Working with QED has enabled us to see the opportunities and challenges that reusing shipping containers bring.”

The Acton development has a seven-year site uselifespan. After that time the units will be dismantled and taken to another site.

John said: “The team therefore has had to think not only how to build it quickly, exceeding building regulations, but how will it will then be dismantled and reused.

Roman said: “The project has been satisfying both professionally and personally. We’ve addressed various shipping container and site technical challenges. And when you see residents visit their new home, with their own front door providing them with the security and stability that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted, it’s an incredible motivator for the whole team.”

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Alumni using sport to create a level playing field

Three University of Brighton graduates are launching an organisation to tackle inequalities in sport.

Run the Bases (RTB) is using softball to address the issue by combing values and skills-based coaching to “empower and encourage young athletes to become leaders in sport and in life. Inclusion and gender equality are the goal and the target group is the female population.”

The three alumni, all graduates from the University’s Sport and International Development MA programme, are Sebastian Cirillo , from Italy, Kelly Smith from the UK, and Tara Henry, from the USA and a former UCLA softball player.

They were previously involved in the University’s Football 4 Peace, the pioneering project that uses sport to build cultural bridges and promote peaceful co-existence.

The three recently organised a pilot event in Gozo, Malta, in partnership with the Għajnsielem Redcoats, a local sports organisation offering softball, baseball and basketball to its members.

Offering advice to participants were Stanley Doney, coach of the Dutch softball team Olympia Haarlem, the European Cup Winners Cup Champions and Dutch Softball Coach of the Year, and Tahli Moore, a former National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA softball player in the USA.

More than 130 participants, aged 6-36, from two primary schools and four local softball teams joined in the event which was supported by Sport Malta, the World Baseball Softball Confederation and the European Softball Federation which donated equipment.

Some primary school children were playing softball for the first time. Tara Henry said: “The Redcoats’ great response during the goal setting sessions demonstrated the enormous potential that softball as a sport can have in breaking gender barriers.

“The event validated our mission and confirms the importance of offering athletes equal coaching in both skills and values. It also served as a useful starting point for academic investigation. RTB will use the results of research from the event to build a strong body of academic literature to disseminate educational materials in the field of Sport for Development.”

The graduates hope to partner the Redcoats and other organisations to meet their goal of becoming an international destination for sport. Tara said: “This is the first step towards building a sustainable system of talent development. This in turn would create many female role models and the ideal environment for promoting gender equality through softball.”

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