Block 5 student interns at renowned costume house

By Juliette Lemley, Block 5

In July, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to complete an internship at Tirelli Costumi, a renowned costume house based in Rome which supplies period costumes for motion picture productions.

During the internship, I met the fashion designer Andrea Sorrentino and I was able to work with him as he prepared the wardrobe for Catherine the Great, starring Helen Mirren, which is currently being filmed.

At the conclusion of our work in July, Mr Sorrentino invited me to take my internship further and return to Rome to assist him in the presentation of his work in a major exhibition on costume and wardrobe in cinema.

My role was to assist him in the preparation of his portion of the exhibition. Mr Sorrentino was displaying one of his original wardrobe pieces that he created for a short film called The Secret of Joy.

The exhibition was very interesting as it incorporated the work of established designers such as Piero Tosi and Maurizio Millinoti, both of whom are legendary designers in the global cinema world, and combined it with the work of fashion design students who are their protégés.

Some of the specific tasks I worked on as we prepared the display included adding gems to the dress, steaming the dress and adjusting some of the worn out areas on the dress, as well as numerous other things.

While working with Mr Sorrentino I gained a couple of insights that have been very impactful on my thinking. The first is that no matter what level, or what business you are working in, details matter – and focus on them is critical.

Secondly, I now have a much stronger understanding of how important it is to create and nurture relationships with people you admire and respect so, if you are fortunate, you have the opportunity to continue to learn from them. Also, being a good and dependable team mate is critical as people will be able to depend on you and you will be able to learn more.

Thank you to Bedales for making it possible for me to take part in the internship and continue my education in this area.

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Head Students visit the Minerva Theatre

By Bedales Head Students

Last Tuesday, the Head Students, along with Magnus, saw Cock by Mike Bartlett at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester. While it was frustrating to watch due to the high levels of tension, it was also charming, funny and intimate. The dysfunctional relationship between John (Luke Thallon) and M (Matthew Needham) made the audience cringe and laugh. The fast moving pace of the writing made the relationship between John and W (Isabella Laughland) seem move exciting.

In the story we see these relationship’s put to the test when John goes from dating M to dating W. Therefore identifying as gay to identifying to bisexual. The twist comes when John makes promises to both parties that he wants to stay with them. This in turn leads to the climatic end to the story where we see M’s dad get involved in the situation Although the ending is left ambiguous the acute frustration of a household chore is amplified in John’s horrific decision. It is not the final choice that it is horrific, of course, the journey that he took there.

The staging of this play was very simple. There were no props or set. On the floor was red tape in the shape of a decagon. To show that time had passed, a alarm bell would ring and right lights would flash. The actors would change positions based on emotions rather than on particle steps. The beautiful and intricate writing of Mike Bartlett was portrayed perfectly, the words feeling natural for each character.

Commission for Block 4 student

A Block 4 student whose original script was selected to be performed at an event in London has been commissioned to develop it into a full-length piece for theatre in the capital’s West End.

Freya Hannan-Mills’ script, Swallow – which documents a daughter’s last days in a hospice with her mother – was one of four pieces of writing chosen by casting company Spotlight to be produced for an event hosted at their studios in the heart of the West End on 7 October.

The piece, which was brought to life for Spotlight’s event by director Phoebe Rhodes and actress Kate Kelly Flood, was well received by the industry panel in attendance, with casting director Daniel Edwards tweeting: “Left speechless by [Freya’s] exceptional piece … This young actress/writer is one to watch people!”

Following the success of the performance, Freya received the news that she was to be commissioned to develop Swallow into a full-length piece for performance at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London’s West End in January 2019.

The script will also be featured in a ‘Best of 2018’ showcase in London in December 2018.

Freya’s latest success comes just a week after she received the Robert Hutchison Young Poets Competition for her poem, Overheard at Zara – Liverpool One, at a special prize-giving event at the University of Winchester.

Earlier this year she was crowned the winner of  Wicked Young Writer Awards’ 11-14 Years Category for her short story, Mushy Peas and Battered Bits.

Students cycle the South Downs Way

By Oscar Kingsley-Pallant, 6.2

Last weekend Archie Gibbon, Jack Cecil, Sam Wilson and I left the King Alfred’s statue in Winchester at four o’clock in the morning attempting to cycle the South Downs Way in a day.

The initial 25 miles went by in a breeze, though in freezing temperatures and pitch black skies the distance we covered in such a short space of time raised our confidence.

At 30 miles we hit a low and began to struggle with the constant increase in steepness of the hills. At the perfect time we met Nicola Cecil and Fionna Gibbon who re-supplied us with energy and morale. Setting off after that was hard and required huge mental and physical strength for the next 40 or so miles.

After hours of intense cycling on the unforgiving terrain we met Jim Gibbon, a true guardian angel to all each of us. From Brighton he supported us with fuel and motivation, meeting us at pit stops well into the night.

When darkness came we were still left with 30 miles to go and struggled. The encouragement we got from each other allowed us to continue and spur on until Eastbourne came into view.

When finishing the final leg of the journey we were all fully exhausted and lied down underneath the finishing sign with a sense of overwhelming happiness and pride that we had completed cycling the South Downs Way in a day.

Thank you to all those who supported us, especially our parents, and thank you to those who have donated to our cause as we raise money for Swaziland.

An interview with Jo Webbern, Head of Bedales Pre-prep School, Dunannie, 2010-18

When we meet, Jo Webbern is adorned with a pair of Pudsey Bear ears. So are her staff and, of course, the children of Dunannie, over whom she keeps a good-natured watch throughout our conversation. It’s Children in Need Day, the atmosphere is excited, boisterous but suffused with warmth and encouragement. Jo is overseeing life at a school whose educational beliefs tally exactly with her own and always have done, ever since she was first inspired by the Brown Owl of her Brownie group as a young girl.

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“I wasn’t only a Brownie, you know,” she says. “I also became a Guide later and then a Queen’s Guide but I always particularly adored Brown Owl, who was warm, friendly, kind and funny. She had been trained at the Froebel Institute, the same place that produced the first Head of Dunhurst, as it happens, and from my early days, I remember thinking that I wanted to be exactly like her.”

Teaching wasn’t the only possibility on the young Jo’s horizon when it came to considering a career, however. “There were boundaries in my childhood, naturally, but I was always given the greatest possible support by my parents to go ahead and explore life,” Jo remembers. “I was a bit of a tomboy, really, adored cars and if I wasn’t going to become an actress, which was a huge ambition of mine at one point, then being a rally driver would have been a fabulous alternative. Teaching happened in the end, mainly because I thought that it would be a more secure thing to do!”

Just as she had always planned, Jo emulated her former mentor by gaining her Froebel Certificate of Education (in 2017 students were credited with a degree). “What I loved about the Froebel approach was that children were listened to, individuality was encouraged and each child’s personal characteristics were enhanced and developed,” Jo reflects. “When I went to Froebel, the Plowden Report into primary education in Britain had just come out and while there were plenty of ideas out there, how to put them into the educational structure seemed to be a bit less certain. Practical considerations were sometimes lacking in those days but people were on the right track. It was properly recognised that a child’s early years are the most crucial of all – the building blocks, the monkey bars, the sand-pit and all the rest of it.”

A native Welsh girl, Jo headed homewards in order to gain her first practical teaching experience: “Yes, back to the Gower, where I managed to gain a really sound overview of teaching at a number of different schools. I taught inner city children and those from the farming communities and it was a great way to learn my craft.”

Eventually, the time was ripe for what had long seemed inevitable – Jo’s return to London to teach at the Froebel Demonstration School, Ibstock Place, the jewel in the crown of the Froebel Institute and a place where Jo would spend 26 contented years. “It was a wonderful school, a hands-on and spontaneous place at which to teach and to learn,” she enthuses. “Children were climbing trees the whole time, bashing around and being allowed to make their own mistakes, learn from them and ultimately apply those lessons as they moved through life. You might suddenly decide that your class would put their coats on and head off to the park in those days without any thought about permission slips or health and safety assessments. Perhaps you would all jump on a train and go and see an exhibition about the Romans – those were magical years for teachers, a time when you weren’t as restricted as you might be in the modern world. I do feel today that there is too much attention paid to control of the curriculum, that it is too carefully crafted. There has to be room for innovation and spontaneity.”

“The early years are a time when children are like a sponge; the idea for teachers must be to instil a love of learning and independent thinking in them, alongside the sound base of core standards,” Jo continues. “When I look at Year 3 in Dunannie, for example, rehearsing for their Christmas play and so taking time away from their English or maths lessons, I think how worthwhile it is. The children are learning how to work together and support each other, at the same time as they are developing their own confidence and creativity.”

Jo happened to leave Ibstock Place on the same day that Terry Wogan abdicated from his eternal reign over the airwaves of Radio 2. “It was strangely coincidental to me that we should be simultaneously leaving jobs that we loved after the same length of service,” Jo observes. “It was the right thing for me at the time, though, there were a few family matters that needed to be sorted out as well and so off I went, not without a tear in my eye.”

She would not be lost to teaching for long. A vacancy for the role of Head arose at Dunannie and Jo’s name was put forward for the post by her own former head. “I knew a fair bit about Bedales for one reason or another,” Jo explains. “I’d come here as a visitor and been so impressed; the ethos at Ibstock Place and Bedales had always been closely aligned and a number of pupils had moved on from one to the other. Sarah Webster, my formidable predecessor but one at Dunannie, was also someone whom I knew well and liked a lot. It was as though the stars aligned for me – I was free to move and now here was this wonderful opportunity to come to a place that I admired so much and now wanted me to lead the school. I felt so honoured.”

Starting as Head at the beginning of a summer term was unusual but, as Jo readily confirms, allowed her vital time to see what her priorities at Dunannie should be: “I had a clean sheet and the chance to familiarise myself with the school, to stand back, observe and reflect – and later, to implement. The only thing that took a bit of getting used to was the first-name terms but I soon saw what an enabling tool it was for the children in a conversation. One little boy seemed to think that my first name was Jwebbern, rather than Jo, so that’s what I became!”

Jo’s major preoccupation was that spontaneity should regain its place at the heart of the school – what she terms the ‘Dunannie factor’. “It seemed to me that some of the teachers had perhaps felt themselves to be under a control that was too tight,” she says. “I felt that it was necessary to restore their voice to them and allow them to express themselves through their teaching – reinstitute the ‘we can’ mentality. This is such a precious time in a child’s life and there is a danger in assessing them at every step of the way at such a young age. Of course, we measure the progress of the children but at this age more than most, children achieve different things at different times. You can achieve a Level 3 in writing if it’s especially beautifully done, but no grade can reflect the amount of effort that has gone into producing it.”

Encouragement and applause, then, would become Jo’s watchwords for Dunannie under her stewardship. “To see children skipping in to school, eager to learn, is such a wonderful thing. What we’re all trying to do here is to impart transferable skills that will prepare children for life at Dunhurst, Bedales or somewhere completely different,” she says. “Parents have a crucial role to play in that too, of course, and it’s vital for us to establish a healthy relationship with them. They need to trust us but it’s also important that they understand that we know what we’re doing. We will always listen to their views and concerns but equally, parents must be able to listen to us. Friedrich Froebel once said that a mother is a child’s first teacher and that’s true but it’s the school that has to be trusted to make those lessons work.”

It seems strange, contemplating so much exuberance and evident delight at the Dunannie of today, that Jo Webbern will no longer be a part of it after this term (Summer 2018). “I kept my retirement under my hat for a while but I’m a firm believer in leaving the party while I’m still enjoying it,” she says. “Once again, it’s absolutely the right decision for me. I have so loved the privilege of being Head here and I want to hang on to the very best of memories, the most satisfying that I’ve ever had.”

So what comes next? “I will find plenty of things to do,” Jo laughs. “I have a husband to keep an eye on and a golf handicap to bring down and I’m looking forward to doing a bit of voluntary work and a lot of travelling. Forty years of high-priced holidays will be a thing of the past for me and I intend to make the most of it. Of course I shall be sad to leave but I’ll circle back here from time to time once it’s appropriate to do so and my successor Victoria has had a chance to breathe and put her own mark on things. You can be sure of one thing: I shall never abandon the connection that I have with this place. I value it far too much.”

Jo Webbern was originally interviewed by James Fairweather in November 2017, and minor additions were added in June 2018 prior to publishing.

Can a school change and still be the same school?

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By Clare Jarmy, Head of PRE and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

125 logo trans - Copy (Small)Giving school assemblies is always such a joy, especially tackling topics that really matter to us as a community. On our minds this year, in the context of the 125th anniversary of the school, and with Magnus taking the reins in September, is institutional identity. Is Bedales the same school it was 125 years ago? With so much change over the years, how can Bedales still be the same?

In Philosophy, we ask this question of ourselves – we are changing too, with cells regenerating all the time, so am I the same person? Perhaps memories are what keep us the same person?

I applied this to the case of Bedales, and demonstrated that there is a long institutional memory at the school. I asked students to stand up if they had been at Bedales for more than 5 years, then to stand up if they had a parent at the school, or grandparent, or sibling. By then, almost everyone was standing up, and we could see how much collective memory we have of the school.

Similarly, we still have overlapping memories leading back to Mr Badley himself. Keith, other staff and OBs, knew Tim Slack. Tim Slack knew Mr Badley. We then, by knowing those around us today, become part of that chain of memory that leads back to the foundation of the school.

This could get quite backward-looking and nostalgic. After all, as John Henry Newman said, ‘to live is to change’, and Bedales is always seeking to renew itself (Mr Badley wanted the school to rebuild itself every seven years). We must, then, remain Janus-faced, looking back to and understanding our past, yet ever looking forwards to how we shape the school in the future.

Steephurst Air Raid Shelter

By Jane Kirby, Bedales Librarian and Archivist

In going through some of the Headmaster’s correspondence from the WW2 era, I came across a tantalising reference to the architect employed to advise the school on the provision of Air Raid Shelters.

I haven’t yet traced all the papers that may be in the school archives, only letters from Headmaster Freddie Meier to Dr Carr, Chair of the Governors, but these were sufficient to send me on a quest to the RIBA study rooms at the V&A.

It transpires, that among the archives of Ernö Goldfinger held at the V&A, there is indeed a file relating to the design and building of the Steephurst Air Raid Shelter.  Mary Crowley, an Old Bedalian who had become an architect, worked with Goldfinger for a period and both their names appear on the front of the Specification of Works for the shelter.

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The Steephurst bike sheds – as they are now.

Before the war, Mary had worked with Alister MacDonald and Vyv Trubshawe (both OBs) on plans for alterations to Steephurst, Steepcot and the Main Building, and designs for the girls’ changing rooms.  She later married David Medd and after the war they became well-known for their work in designing schools.

The Steephurst Air Raid shelter made use of the fact that the land falls between the main Steephurst lawn and the lower part of the garden.  There was already a retaining wall at this point, with central steps.  The steps were removed, and the retaining wall used as the rear wall of the shelter.  Drawn up in an optimistic spirit, the original plans include a drawing for ‘Elevation : Post War’ in which the roof is held up by pillars, but the front wall has been removed, to give a cloister at the edge of the garden.  This, of course, is what was done and the air raid shelter became the girls’ bike shed; perhaps a rather less glamorous use than the quiet shelter for relaxation they might have imagined.

Progress was rapid, considering the restrictions in place at the time, and after the plans were accepted in August 1940 the contractors were on site in early September.  There were difficulties obtaining some materials – the steel reinforcing rods, and bricks – and more expensive items had to be substituted.  There was some discussion as to the need for Elsans, which were eventually included.  A temporary covered passageway was also built from the shelter to Steephurst, but something clearly went amiss in communicating this, so it did not follow the original intended route straight into the sewing room, but went instead at an angle.  Some savings were made by making the bunks 2’ rather than 2’3” wide.

When the building was finished, some disquiet was expressed at how rough the floor was, but there was no money to put down a screed (despite the generosity of parents in donating to the building costs).  One unforeseen problem was that the lights shone through the roof vents “and turned it into a grand express train”, but these were soon blacked out.  By the end of January 1941 Freddie Meier was writing to inform Goldfinger that some of the bricks were crumbling, so despite being a more expensive type of brick than the original ones specified, they do not seem to have been very good quality.  The original builders, strangely, came all the way from Ringmer, near Lewes, but a local firm was appointed to replace the defective bricks.

Many of Goldfinger’s buildings, such as the Balfron and Trellick Towers and his house at 2 Willow Road, Hampstead (National Trust), are listed, so I wonder if we should campaign for the same recognition of the bike sheds, and add another listed building to our portfolio?