Capturing Cambridge
  • search
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Sonita Alleyne. Credit: Damian Paul Daniel

Sonita Alleyne: Master of Jesus College

Sonita Alleyne is the 'Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and - more significantly - the first black master of any Oxbridge college.

“Born in Barbados, Sonita Alleyne came to England aged three and grew up in East London, the youngest of three children. She was an able reader by the time she started primary school, and her potential was spotted at her secondary school, where she was encouraged to apply to Cambridge.

She read philosophy at Fitzwilliam College and, after a brief and unfulfilling spell selling life insurance, she followed her passion for jazz by starting to write for music magazines. In 1989 she joined the radio station Jazz FM. When she was made redundant a couple of years later, she and two former Jazz FM colleagues set up a production company they called Somethin’ Else.

Sonita stepped down as CEO in 2009 to concentrate on other boardroom roles. She served on the BBC Trust for nearly five years, sits on the board of the London Legacy Development Corporation, and founded the Yes Programme to show primary school pupils their future career options. She is a fellow of the Radio Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts.

Sonita began her ten year tenure as Master of Jesus College in October 2019. She lives in Cambridge with her partner, the screenwriter James McCarthy, and their teenage son.”

From Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs with Sonita Alleyne 02 Feb 2020

DISC ONE: I’ve Known Rivers by Gary Bartz & NTU Troop
DISC TWO: Les Fleurs by Minnie Riperton
DISC THREE: Key To The World by L J Reynolds
DISC FOUR: Martha by Tom Waits
DISC FIVE: Tennessee by Arrested Development
DISC SIX: To Forgive But Not Forget by Outside
DISC SEVEN: Last Train to Clarksville by Cassandra Wilson
DISC EIGHT: Swing Low Sweet Chariot by Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson

PROFILE on Radio 4
Interviews with Sonita’s family, partner, friends, mentors and peers. Presented by Mark Coles


Profile Photo of Sonita Alleyne  by Damian Paul Daniel from the Jesus College article
Sonita Alleyne OBE elected as new Master 26 May 2019


Celebrating the courage and resilience of the women of Cambridge

Cam Herstory is an archive and resource of Cambridge Women’s Heritage, celebrating the courage and resilience of the women of Cambridge.

The archive celebrates the contributions of women who have lived, worked and studied in Cambridge throughout the ages: from stories of women in history who changed the city for the better, and often contributed nationally to  stories of women currently living in Cambridge who make massive contributions to improve the lives of their friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, community members and our city every single day.

We’d love to hear from you

If you would like to add to add a Cambridge Herstory blog – whether your story or someone else’s, or an event, art, culture or links celebrating the women of Cambridge, please contact Ari or Hilary.

Ariadne Henry
Community Development Officer, Cambridge City Council

Hilary Cox Condron
Cam Herstory Curator

And join the conversation on social media:

Facebook: @camherstory

Twitter: @camherstory




Do you have any information about the people or places in this article? If so, then please let us know using the Contact page or by emailing

Dear Visitor,


Thank you for exploring historical Cambridgeshire! We hope you enjoy your visit.


Did you know that we are a small, independent Museum and that we rely on donations from people like you to survive?


If you love Capturing Cambridge, and you are able to, we’d appreciate your support today.


Every donation makes a world of difference.


Thank you,

The Museum of Cambridge