Olivia Burt at Castle Ladies Night
Olivia Burt at Castle Ladies Night

Castle student, Olivia Burt was a young woman who achieved many things in her short life and always tried to be the best that she could be in everything she did. Olivia made friends easily and when, on 7 February 2018 she was killed in a horrendous incident in Durham city centre there was a huge outpouring of grief. Her death came as a shock to everyone, all the more so because of her kindness, selflessness and courage which shone through in everything she did.

One of Olivia’s friends in Castle said: “I valued you as a friend, who I knew would light up my day just by having a conversation with you - you were just so bubbly, confident, happy and positive about everything life had to offer, and for that I admire you so much."

“It’s a tragedy to lose anybody, but especially someone with so much potential, so much to offer this world and so much love and life to share. You, along with your smile, will be missed at Castle, but your ambitions and hopes will live on.”

Olivia was a first year student reading Natural Sciences. She was only just setting out on her new university life in Durham, but she took to it like the proverbial ‘duck to water’, a very appropriate simile given her love of sailing. She started sailing Optimists when she was 5 years old, moving into Lasers, 4.7s and Radials. She sailed internationally for Great Britain in all of these classes and naturally gained a place in the university sailing team. In addition, Olivia’s love of music saw her playing her saxophone in the Castle Big Band and she had just been invited to join the Castle Events Committee.

Once the initial all-consuming shock of Olivia’s death passed and in an effort to find some meaning in the tragedy, Olivia’s parents Nigel and Paula decided to set up Olivia Inspires, a charity to allow Olivia’s spirit to live on in the achievements of others. The charity will assist young people aged 11 to 18 years, whose families live in the New Forest District Council area and who are facing financial hardship, by making grants of money, normally no more than £500, to provide items or services to enable them to develop their potential in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the arts and sport.

The Olivia Inspires launch event: (left to right) Sarah Le May, High Sheriff of Hampshire; Paula and Nigel Burt; Charlie McKeever; Lucas McCollum; Sam Whalley, British Sailing Team; Alan Glass, Chairman of New Forest District Council.
The Olivia Inspires launch event: (left to right) Sarah Le May, High Sheriff of Hampshire; Paula and Nigel Burt; Charlie McKeever; Lucas McCollum; Sam Whalley, British Sailing Team; Alan Glass, Chairman of New Forest District Council.

Olivia Inspires was launched last October at a high profile event where Castle was represented by two of Olivia’s friends and fellow students, Charlie McKeever and Lucas McCollum. Nigel said: “Following the launch, we have had an incredible response to our initial fundraising and we would like to thank everyone who has donated. We have been touched by people’s willingness to support Olivia’s charity. Perhaps this is because Olivia was so well known and loved by so many people; perhaps because of the awfulness of the tragedy that befell Olivia, and Paula and I as Olivia’s parents; perhaps because of the need for a charity like Olivia Inspires. Most likely it is for all three of these reasons.”

A large number of individuals, companies and organisations have already come forward with support for Olivia Inspires. In November Durham University Sailing Club joined in raising more than £250 for Olivia Inspires from a raffle at their Angel of the North 2019 team racing regatta, held at Derwent Reservoir.

Not to be outdone, Olivia’s friend at Castle, Cori Robbins raised an incredible £850 for Olivia Inspires. Every year Cori's family organises a charity fell race in the Mendips called the Crook Peak Cake Race. Most recently it was Cori's turn to organise the event and she chose to support Olivia Inspires. 

Castle Community Action and Castle JCR have nominated Olivia Inspires as one of their charities of the year. Castle Outreach Officer, Mala Pandit said: “Olivia was an incredibly intelligent, beautiful and inspirational young woman and friend – a much loved and valued member of the College, with her efforts and enthusiasm displayed through her contribution and involvement in numerous committees, societies and clubs. We are honoured to be able to raise money for the charity this year, in memory of Olivia, to be able to help the many young children this wonderful charity sets out to support.”

If you want to join the fundraising effort why not join the Castle students and DUSC members who are running the Northumberland Half Marathon on 20 March. If you don’t think you can manage running 13.1 miles, then why not sponsor one of the runners? Click this link to donate.

A steady stream of applications for support has been received via the Olivia Inspires website and the first grants have been awarded to a variety of richly deserving young people. The charity is now concentrating on developing and expanding the already established links with schools and youth organisations in the New Forest, with the aim of dramatically increasing the number of grant applicants.

To find out more about Olivia Inspires please visit the website, where you can also make online donations:

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact:

Written by Nigel Burt


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