Merry Evening marks return of live music to Bedales

By Clara Batty, 6.2

After we had settled into our socially distanced seats in the Theatre last Saturday, we waited excitedly to see what Merry Evening would bring. Spanning two nights this year to ensure that plenty of students had an opportunity to attend amidst the current restrictions, it marked the return of live music to Bedales – but the restrictions didn’t hamper the amazing atmosphere!

The Upstanding Jokes opened on Saturday night with their signature rambunctious style, this time slathered onto the Beastie Boys’ hit Gratitude, followed by Patrick O’Donnell’s performance of the smooth pop rock tune New Shoes by Paolo Nutini. Next up, Nay Murphy sang the sweetest rendition of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. He was accompanied by Monty Bland, Joe Mendes and Tiger Braun-White, who also performed a wonderful keyboard solo.

Millie Bolton then took us on a journey of romantic excitement with Mae Miller’s Anticlimax; her Lily Allen-esque tone was wonderful and representative of the individual artist she’s becoming. Next was Freya Hannan-Mills, who performed Slow by Rumer; her sultry tone matched the song’s jazzy chords and laidback beat perfectly. Jake Scott then performed one of his originals. The catchy chorus and up-beat guitar made for a great song by a great young artist.

Martha Rye Lees gave the only fully acoustic instrument of the night. Her folk violin tune in theme and variation form was a wonderful change of scene and as a string player myself I was very impressed with her playing. Roo Trim’s original song was next. She sang about helplessness and losing hope in humanity as we all watch our world crumble due to climate change and increased levels of corporatism. It was a truly touching song and a vulnerable and beautifully expressed look into her mind.

Someone we all expect to see on stage at some point in the year was up next. With her signature piano and mic combo, Molly Montagu gave a stunning performance of One and Only by Adele that would impress even those who might say there’s no point covering Adele’s songs because she’s already sung them perfectly herself.

Another newcomer and the younger of the Murphy brothers, Zeb sang and played a folk tune on religion that explained the insightful questions the youth have on the societal systems we have in place. A very mature performance, I’m sure we’re all looking forward to seeing more of Zeb in the future. Another sibling pairing was present last Saturday: Livvy and Joel Edgeworth performed Billy Joel’s Vienna. The chemistry was obvious and made for a wonderful performance of a great song, it was wonderful to see that older songs aren’t being forgotten despite all the new music being pumped out nowadays.

Other highlights included Skye Williams singing Golden Dandelions with Kit Mayhook-Walker accompanying on guitar and Saffi Forder on the piano, who also accompanied Storm Verwey later in the show for her cover of Adele’s Skyfall.

Tiger Braun-White presented his original song Tricks of the Trade, sung by Lila Levingston with Tiger, Monty, and Joe accompanying. The penultimate performer on Saturday was Bedales Contemporary Music royalty, Isabella Montero, who performed another of her self-penned songs, this time an upbeat song about young love.

Finally, the evening was brought to a close with George Vaux and his laptop. George performed all the instrumental and vocal parts to the dance hit Gypsy Woman which had us all on our feet and dancing.

After a night of great performances by great performers, I know everyone in the audience left humming something new. I’m looking forward to going to Band Night on 5 November – I’m sure it’ll be even better than any of us could imagine.

Innovation at Bedales

By Alistair McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation

Outdoor work at Bedales

Another way is possible. At Bedales we have long eschewed a narrow focus on preparing students for terminal exams. A nourishing educational experience must do much more than fill heads with knowledge for the sake of supervised regurgitation. We live out our Ruskin-inspired motto: “Head, Hand and Heart”. Every day at school should strike a balance between intellectual stimulation, creative work, and service to the community. We have recently re-structured our school day around this principle. There is choice about when to get up, since we know that autonomy is motivating, and that not all adolescents are designed for early mornings. Lots of students will opt to start the day with a co-curricular activity: meditation, feeding sheep, baking bread, a country walk; they might get into the kitchens to help serve and clear breakfast; others will choose a little more slumber before academic lessons and plan their activities for later. We know that an under-slept student is an inefficient one. Lessons start at 9.45. A full hour later than they used to be. We know that it’s refreshing for students to take breaks and to switch activity, so we have built a further blast of non-academic activity into the middle of the day. Music ensembles, drama rehearsals, service activities with local community partners, tending the vegetable garden, or a tennis lesson, for example. More lessons in the afternoon, followed by a final raft of optional activities in the evening. But, crucially, lots of choice about when to be active and when to rest. So, everyone chooses co-curricular activities, but by no means in every slot. It’s really important for young people to be able to opt for unstructured leisure, too, and they can choose when to get their homework done as long as they hit the deadline. No compulsory ‘prep’ times here.  

Alistair McConville and Bedales students

We have baked our “Head, Hand, Heart” principles into curriculum and assessment. For a dozen years Bedales has been issuing the now famous ‘Centre Assessed Grades’ for its own GCSE-equivalent courses, the Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs). We have trusted teachers to report reliably and constructively on the broad range of work that students do, and so have universities. And we have been able to assess in a much broader way than GCSEs permit. As part of our Outdoor Work BAC, for example, a student’s ability to work in a team whilst renovating a tractor is as much a part of their assessment as writing about the process. Their ability to explain and defend their project to an audience counts towards their grade. This is ‘work that matters’ to paraphrase Ron Berger. We’re rolling out a Level 3 equivalent course in Living With the Land this September to teach students how to live in a radically sustainable way. Watch out for a proliferation of cob houses and hemp-clad foragers in the Hampshire hills!

We’re adopting a rigorous project-based learning approach in year 9, inspired by the Expeditionary Learning Movement and our friends at the XP School in Doncaster. Students will work on real-life enquiry questions and study across disciplines in order to respond practically to real-world issues. For example, we will look at the contemporary refugee crisis through the lenses of history, geography, religious studies and literature at the same time as planning practical responses to support our partners at the Rural Refugee Network.

It’s an enviable experience for our students and they know it, but we don’t want to keep it all to ourselves. We are eager to share this kind of rounded, enriching approach to education with others, knowing that far too many languish in an unfulfilling exam-obsessed rut. We’re working with a small number of independent schools to build a partnership with our innovative colleagues and friends in the maintained sector at Bohunt School, Gosport’s Key Education Centre, School 21 and the XP School to make the case for significant national assessment reform. Watch this space, but the time has never felt more ripe for a thorough re-thinking of the drudgerous, purgatorial treadmill of an education system obsessed with terminal exam results…  

A Journey Along the River Teifi

By Jake Morris, 6.2

The River Teifi is the longest river in Wales; 73 miles in length from its source in the vast and barren Cambrian Mountains to the wide, slow flowing scenic estuary as it meets the sea just west of Cardigan. The stunning and unique locations it flows through inspired me to make a film, A Journey Along the River Teifi, as it seemed like a challenge to try and convey its beauty onto film. I co-wrote and co-produced the film with my father, Old Bedalian Gyles Morris, as we had started to make a river documentary a couple of years ago. That project didn’t go the way we wanted it to, so we re-approached the film with a new set of ideas. Instead of just making it with the idea of people and history, I wanted to make sure we followed some of the natural occurrences on the river as well as balancing the ‘people’ element of the film, which provided the perfect storyline to follow.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making this film, visiting the beautiful locations and trying to portray the beauty of the River Teifi and those who live in and around it, as well as the editing and choosing different music to highlight different emotions one might feel when watching a particular sequence of imagery.

A day which stood out for me in particular was filming water buffalos. The initial reaction for that is: “What?! There are Water Buffalos in Wales?!” and indeed there are. Cattle cannot graze on marshy ground partly because they don’t want to but also they can suffer from red water fever, so to keep the Teifi Marshes intact, water buffalos are brought in for a couple of months in the summer from a nearby farm. When filming big animals, you always have to be careful. We had achieved the drone shots successfully, but I wanted to make sure we also got some close up/intimate shots of the animals. The field they were in stretched a couple of acres and we could only see two buffalo out of the three who were in the field. As we tiptoed around the corner of this mound, in the middle of the field – 400 metres away – two females we looking at us down their noses. But where was the third male? Suddenly a metre or two in front of the females, the male erupted out of the foliage. We knew instantly that our presence was not wanted! Slowly they began to walk towards us, I stopped filmed for 30 seconds and then quickly rushed back and repeated the same as before. Finally, I got the shots I needed, but what an incredible experience. Looking deep into its eyes, it felt like I could be somewhere in Africa filming this amazing animal.  

The most challenging aspect of the film was the sound recording and balancing it to the imagery. A lot of inspiration came from the major BBC shows of Blue Planet 2, Planet Earth 2 or Seven Worlds, One Planet.  

The hardest thing about making this film was noticing the effects we are having on the river. Increasing intensification of agriculture has resulted in three major slurry spillages and poisonings in the last five years. We searched for the dead fish because I felt it was important for the story to be told and put the reality of the river into perspective. As we turned a corner, a cloud of flies engulfed the air around us and when they cleared, the true devastation was revealed. Around 60-70 fish were on the stones next to the river with around 10 which were visible on the surface. This was only a small river, the incidents on the river Teifi have killed over 1,000 fish. That was the most difficult aspect to film because it was heart breaking to see this had happened.  

This film was such a joy to make and I’m looking forward to see what I can do for my next project.

Watch Jake’s film, A Journey Along the River Teifi on YouTube here.

Down on the farm

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

It’s so good to have everyone back at Bedales and to have students involved on the farm again. With the school closed during lockdown, many of our usual helpers weren’t around, but with animals to feed and a farm to keep running, those of us still on site were busier than ever. So here’s a quick catch-up on what you might have missed…

Since March: three Herdwick, 12 Bedales chocolate and 27 Jacob lambs were born, our two sows had 12 Berkshire and 13 Oxford Sandy & Black piglets between them, we sold six live lambs and two ewes, sent eight hoggets to the abbatoir, lost 15 chickens to a mystery predator, acquired two Pygmy goats, sold 22 piglets, thought about getting a cow (watch this space!), baled 111 bales of hay, harvested over 250 jars of honey, sheared 68 sheep, trimmed countless feet and bottle fed a lamb in my house for five weeks! This is without even mentioning all the fruit and vegetables that has been grown, harvested and frozen in preparation for delicious recipe making with students this term.

We received a huge amount of help from staff living on site, who so generously gave their time to tend to the vegetable beds and polytunnels. Not only did this provide a form of lockdown therapy, but a wonderful community spirit flourished – thank you! I would also like to give a special mention to Outdoor Work’s Kirsten and Marcella, as well as my own family, all of whom worked tirelessly throughout a long and sometimes difficult period to help keep this unique and beautiful farm thriving. We very much look forward to working alongside students and staff once again. Here’s to a fabulous new school year!

For the latest updates, follow Bedales Outdoor Work on Instagram here.

‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’

Quoting the German General Moltke rather than John Badley in a ‘beginning of the new school year’ blog might seem unusual, but given the exhaustive planning that has gone into re-opening the Bedales schools this week, an acknowledgement of the importance of planning and strategy seems appropriate. ‘No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength’ is often represented in snappier form as ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’. Having stepped unbidden into the role of senior mask monitor I share Moltke’s view. Day 1 of this much anticipated and much heralded term demonstrated the clash between plans and reality. Badley’s ‘work of each for weal of all’ has been prominently presented at all our beginning of term gatherings to underline how individual actions and decisions can have community wide resonance and consequence. With studied patience I say to an unmasked student squeezing their way through a crowded door, ‘Where’s your mask?’. To which they reply, ‘I don’t have one. I thought the school were supplying them’. Or rather, ‘Work of you for weal of me.’ I reach for my handy stash of disposable medical face masks and hope it might last beyond the end of the lesson.

The essence of the Bedales School rules are enshrined on a board in the corridor around the Quad that all Bedalians shuffle past on their way into the dining room. Badley’s stricture that whatever causes ‘Needless exposure of oneself or others to danger or infection’ has suddenly received extra historic resonance. Those rules pre-date 1942 and the development of penicillin by 40 years. Infection in 1893 could mean death, and the 1918 Spanish ‘Flu pandemic would not have left the Bedales community unscathed. There isn’t any direct reference to Bedales’ students losing their lives due to Spanish ‘Flu, but the fear of the spread of infection, as all seasonal winter ‘flu epidemics can spread, would have been very profound. ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ would have been as relevant and true then as it is now. So everyone in the Bedales School community: students, teaching staff and support staff across all three schools, some 1,300 souls all in all, have to safeguard and protect each other, from the immune to the vulnerable (who won’t necessarily know who they are).

Bedales School rules

Students, parents and teachers have had so much to endure since the end of March. The panicked decision to close schools and cancel exams, the A level results’ fiasco, and the uncertainty about when and how schools could re-open, were all caused by a dysfunctional government found wanting. At least now within our own school campus, re-imagined as a self-governed city state, we have the opportunity to return to that sacred exchange of teaching and learning that seeks to link ‘head, hand and heart.’

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

Block 3 experiment with comparative poetry

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

My Block 3 students have been practising writing poems using extended metaphors.

In class, we read The Beach by William Hart-Smith, Winter Morning by Roger McGough and In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound to inspire us, observing that none of the poems used full rhyme or a particular rhythm; instead, they’re constructed using one long sentence.

Students then worked together in small teams groups, looking at a range of images – a skiing scene, traffic on a motorway, a mountain top and a red London bus – and coming up with a number of metaphors and similes to describe aspects of the picture (mountain tops as “Stegosaurus spines” in the skiing scene, for example).

Next, they were asked to turn their collective notes into a descriptive sentence that uses at least one metaphor, then turn that into a poem.

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‘Fascinating’ 6.2 Music bridging course

By Annia Grey, 6.2

Having studied the German late Romantic and Modernist movements outside of our exam curriculum, we have left the 6.2 bridging course feeling enriched by this introduction to some extremely poignant and beautiful works.

As Doug commented when talking about Strauss’ final trio and duet in Der Rosenkavalier, it has been a true ‘palette cleanse’ studying these composers, especially following the rather heavy curricular garlic bread of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

We were collectively moved by the gorgeous quintet in his Die Meistersinger and were left feeling surprised that Wagner could produce something so lyrical, cantabile and moving, having been exposed to his denser works as part of our Pre-U course. This was a highlight for me, Johnny and Bella.

For those whose interests lie more in more instrumental works, a favourite arose in the shape of Mahler’s 8th Symphony and Stravinski’s Firebird for Sampson, Jamie and Mary. The gradual build-up of the instrumentation in the Firebird made for an epic finale for a ballet.

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Historic Digital Rock Show closes unique term


By Neil Hornsby, Head of Contemporary Music

The Bedales Rock Show went digital yesterday as the 18th edition of this great Bedales event was streamed around the world on YouTube.

Whilst this Digital Rock Show was unlike any other, it still bore the same hallmarks that have made the show such a part of the fabric of Bedales in recent years – incredible songwriting, amazingly talented students and a LOT of painstaking hard work!

As well as all of the spectacular performances, a special mention must go to the amazing production team featuring the brilliant editing skills of Sam Coleman, August Janklow and Joe Wilson, along with the ridiculously professional mixing skills of Jake Scot and George Vaux.

The 17-song show was pulled together from more than 500 individual audio and video recordings sent in from students in three continents, and due to the time difference, was worked on literally 24 hours a day for the final four weeks of term.

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Block 4 Ancient Civilizations students make more than the best of lockdown!

by Christopher Grocock, Teacher of Classics


The summer term’s task for Ancient Civilisations students in Block 4 is to devise and produce a piece of project-based work – something which we have always regarded as a pioneering and progressive approach to exploring the ancient world(s) and one which gives students a free hand to show what they can do. This year our students have chosen some remarkably innovating and diverse topics never investigated before, and the assessment panel which had the privilege of seeing their interim work in on-line presentations last week was suitably impressed by their self-evident interest, enthusiasm, and pride in their work. Topics this year have been as diverse as midwifery in ancient Greece and Rome, tattoos, human sacrifice across the world in ancient times, Persian kings’ propaganda, doctors and medicine, and ancient astrology. The ‘personal research and project’ approach has fitted in very well with the current lockdown situation, and it has wonderful to see the ways in which our students have risen to the challenge – even with communication problems (one student is in northern Italy and one is in Switzerland.)

So much for the teacher’s ‘official’ view What did the students think? Olivia Cooper said ‘I wanted to find out how medicine started because it has come such a long way, and to find out how much the understanding of medicine was affected by religious views in ancient societies.’ Lula Goldring’s motive for choosing ancient Persia was sheer curiosity: ‘I never knew about it but I wanted to find out about it – I find discovering new things interesting.’ Theo Heining-Farmiloe chose to study tattoos ‘because it hadn’t been looked at and I wanted to explore it.’ Inigo Portman was inspired by ‘a family trip to Mexico when I was about 11 or 12. It sparked an interest in the Aztecs.’

How did the students find it? Lula said ‘I had lots of freedom to make choices. It was hard at the beginning because it was all new, but s I learned more it all came together. Not confusing the Persia kings called Darius was a challenge too!’ Inigo and Theo both agreed that doing the presentations of their work in the development stage to a panel of three assessors was the most fun part of the course. ‘I enjoyed researching the Carthaginians, too, because they were completely new to me. The editing process was the most difficult.’ Olivia said ‘I really enjoyed the process of discovery and being able to organize my own research at my own pace. But you have to take responsibility for getting it done. The biggest challenge was figuring out what to include and what to leave out.’ Theo summed the whole exercise up nicely – ‘the interesting part is looking at something which hasn’t been looked at very much, and I wanted to explore it. But writing the essay is the most challenging part!’

As their teacher I have been very impressed by all the work done – and the tenacity that the whole class has shown in doing this – and I’m not sure who has enjoyed seeing these projects take shape, the students, their teacher, or the two assessors who saw presentations of a really fine standard. Lockdown or not, some great things are being achieved!

(Picture: the founding father of medicine, Hippocrates – not Chris G, his beard isn’t so curly)

A pig’s life…on the Bedales farm

by Kirsten Houser, Assistant Farm Manager, Bedales

Pig June 2020

On 5 April our Oxford Sandy and Black sow ‘Little Pig’ gave birth to 13 piglets, immediately jostling and squealing to be fed around the clock. Piglets are born with a set of needle sharp teeth, slightly protruding from the sides of their mouths – which they use to defend their chosen teat (they pick one and they stick to it). In commercial pig rearing settings, piglets will have these teeth clipped or ground down to prevent them from injuring each other, which is something that we don’t do here on the Bedales farm, for obvious welfare reasons. We leave mum and babies to get on with things as nature intended. Likely because of the size of the litter, competition for teats was even higher than normal and after a week or so we noticed two of the piglets had some scratches to their faces and were beginning to look weaker and smaller than their siblings. Sadly we lost one of the two, it died at 10 days old, and it looked as though, without some help the second piglet would soon die too. The decision to bottle feed a baby animal is never an easy one – once humans step in that animal loses out on the perfectly tailored nutrition, warmth, and security that its parent provides, not to mention the playtime and social lessons of being part of a litter. Still, there are always exceptions, and having done some research I knew that the only thing this little piglet needed was some milk in her tummy and somewhere warm to sleep. The scratches on her face were causing her eyelids to become swollen, so she couldn’t find her way to mum’s teats for a feed. She was basically getting weaker and weaker, and not able to hold her head up anymore. At this point I decided to take her home.

My partner Lisa and I managed to make up some emergency piglet milk – full fat cows milk, egg yolks and honey, and we set about trying to get Bridget (as we named her) to drink. Bridget’s first feed was only 2 ml, but it was enough to get her through the next couple of hours. She was tiny, wobbly and weak, but we settled her onto a heat mat, made her a jumper from a sock and surrendered ourselves to two-hourly feeds, even through the night. I’m pleased to say that within a week, Bridget started to show signs of improvement and a feisty character emerged. She became firm friends with our collie, Fennel, and let us know when she was hungry with a bossy squeal and much determined nudging. Meanwhile, her brothers and sisters were moving from the pig sty into the Bedales woods and were almost twice her size. We worried she might never catch up.
Weeks passed, lockdown continued and the piglet in our living room grew out of the sock
jumpers and into a puppy crate under the table. She started playing with the dog and following us into the garden, running around and oinking enthusiastically. Pigs are very intelligent creatures, and Bridget learned to sit on command (with food encouragement) and even trotted beautifully to heel! I took her with me to feed the other Bedales animals and we met lots of the on-site community on our walks. It became clear, sadly, that Bridget would soon outgrow my small flat, and that a move outside was on the cards. Having been roughly the size of a guinea pig, Bridget was now the size of a small spaniel, and had worked out how to open the fridge door – oh dear.

Bridget’s siblings were all sold on to lovely new homes (some of whom are Bedales and
Dunhurst families) at the age of 8 weeks. We have our two sows here already, as well as two piglets kept on, so I began to research a new home for Bridget, somewhere she would be provided with the tubby rubs, cherry tomatoes and toast crusts to which she had become accustomed.

Manor Farm near Southampton is a council-run working historic farm open to the public who are able to see up-close their various native and rare breed livestock, in the Victorian farmyard. After a visit to the school to meet Bridget (who behaved very well) the staff at Manor Farm were sure that her clear star-quality (I might be biased) and friendliness with people would make her a great pig to take on. A week or so later, this Tuesday just passed, we loaded Bridget up and drove her over on a bright sunny afternoon to her new home. The farm there (like us) is still closed because of Coronavirus, but they hope to have Bridget well settled in by the time their visitors return this Summer. She will soon be joined by a pair of Tamworth piglets, who will be
closer to her in size than her own siblings, we hope she will enjoy some pig company. When she’s old enough she’ll have her own piglets to look after, and best of all – we’ll be able to visit whenever we like. Lockdown, even on the beautiful Bedales site, has been a confusing and anxious time for everybody, but taking care of this little pig has bought lightness and laughter into our lives, a reminder of the power that animals have to help us stay grounded through difficult times. Thank you Bridget.