Bedales’ creative pulse

Pootling round Design on the Sunday of the design BAC all in weekend brings surprise after surprise. Round the corner I go and there is Chloe Z, looking quizzical with head of design, Ben Shaw; they are looking mystified at Chloe’s fiendishly complicated on-screen design for her stage clock – which comprises a series of cogs behind a transparent surface and which will be an integral part of one of the forthcoming BAC Drama plays – no pressure! Round the next corner and school wordsmith, Chris B is standing by something I think I recognise – but, no, being a table would be too simple: it’s a lighting desk which he has designed in concert with advice from drama production and which will adorn the drama studio in due course. Wow! Mo looks on admiringly. I am only two in and we are already joining hands across the curriculum. Now here I really do find a table – a proper Arts & Crafts’ one being handsomely crafted by James G; he tells me how a mortice and tenon joint works and I caress the oak. Now we are back into a different kind of exotic as Tilly D-S talks me through her Japanese style puzzle box which is constructed very much in the De Stijl way – a melange of national influences. Ellie K is forming a sizeable, sinuous light out of plywood: this entails shaping a polystyrene mould by hand – the plywood will be moulded onto this through some ultra-crafty vacuum technique and then it will become an elegant, serpentine, stylish light. Rhea P is at a very recognisable lathe, carving her spherical, cherry wood jewellry box and having to get the two sides to match up – hand and eye stuff of the old kind, generating good old-fashioned sawdust.

Across the way, the fashionistas are hard at work (in fashion design, clearly). Poor people have to put up with my truly naive questions – what their theme/inspiration is/how it will all work/what’s it made of/can you mass-produce it? They are very patient and, yes, I am really intrigued: the creative pulse, the sense of an individual student coming up with an idea and making the idea substantial and real beats behind each piece. So here is Monty C’s plant-inspired black dress, with its shimmering blue chiffon leaves on top; there is Flora S’s New Romantics (think Adam Ant/Manchester in the 80s) play suit (think jolly cut off dungarees); Chloe J’s Mary Quant style dress is ultra elegant with its brightly coloured shoulder flashes (epaulettes? not quite); and what about Sam H’s golden goddess dress, with its golden sash round the waist? Teachers Susanna and Louise move much more helpfully and quietly amongst their charges. Hunched over her bench Daisy N is working at her mitred (another technical term bagged) corners, whilst India H’s natural fruit-sources dyes and design have a folksy appeal; Hannah B’s is on the bird theme – with the colour and plumage of a tawny owl creating a striking effect. It’s all very inspiring and heartening – great progress being made.

Finally, almost as heartening and on the theme of Britain’s place in world fashion, a fine article in the weekend FT about the revival of Harris Tweed –  featuring Donald John Mackay, who makes 27 yards of tweed a day. Now Nike, who have decided to put tweed on trainers, want 10,000 yards. Tweed manufacture is booming in the Outer Hebrides and an indigenous industry is saved. If someone had asked Adam Ant if people would one day wear tweed on their trainers, I wonder what he would have said.

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.