Pep and fizz

Pep talks, they are everywhere: the Apprentice, changing rooms, gyms – now I am even hearing one in the sanctum that is Bedales Art. No, this is not the “Man or Mouse?” final rallying call that I have heard in pre-rugby match changing rooms (one team-mate confided he had always wanted to exclaim, “Squeak, squeak!” at this point); nor is it the rasped, shouted calls of the instructor leading the static cycling class in a sweaty adjunct to the gym (“Now you are passing a beautiful forest on your left, push, push, burn, burn!”), but it is Simon Sharp, the Bedales Head of Art, giving his Block 5 class stirring words about the need for hard work on their BAC Art pieces over the forthcoming all-in weekend: “It won’t feel like work; you really get into this and give it your all and it won’t seem like work..”

And so it seems, not really like work, when I pad round on Sunday afternoon and see these students in action. There is Rosie G-T’s Burmese-inspired clay head, which looks across the room at Josie P’s elegantly-podgy cherub; next door Bella A is working on the grisly image of the cult leader Jones, whilst Freya P’s lustrous panorama and Alex H’s lagoon are requiring the deftest of brushstrokes. Not work, really, just people wrapped up in stuff  – flow, the educational wonks sometimes call it. Anyway, like lots of good things that don’t really have a fitting name, you know it when you see it or feel it.

Catching some of this adrenalin, even on a Sunday afternoon, and I am off in search of more – to the theatre, where the ghosts of Simon Kingsley-Pallant’s engaging Blocks’ play, Three Gothic Tales, have been just laid to rest after Saturday lunchtime’s last performance, and there is the first A2 Theatre Studies group (Edie A, Freya D, Vincent Z and Charlie E-F) in mid rehearsal, observed by a visiting theatre professional brought in to give each group advice from a fresh perspective in the final stages of their preparation. It is all suitably intense and I won’t give much away about the content but it looks quite scary to me. On to the Quad and the Drama studio and two other groups are working in a self-fuelled way; yes, they know that drama teachers call in, but the ownership and dynamism is all theirs.

Returning back home  I notice the alpacas jogging and muttering in the unusual afternoon sun – are they inspired too? No, Peter Coates is rattling their breakfast nuggets at them.  So they are happy; as is the visiting Jacob’s ram who, job done, has now gone home; I am always relieved that he has gone off to other work, as rams are impatient with visitors to their fields and are as cross as they are fast.

Mulling on the precious commodity that it self-fuelled work and flitting to a very different discipline, I am reminded that this is no preserve of the Arts: here is Michael Truss‘s account (from last week’s Times Educational Supplement) of it operating in Maths:

My Left-Field Lesson – Infinite ideas for maths

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales School


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.