New and improved Petersfield Museum

This article was originally published in the Old Bedalian Newsletter 2021.

By Alice Shaw (née Sedgwick, 1992 – 1999)

Alice and Lead Trustee Bill Gosney (far left) and the construction directors, July 2019

After spending most of my time in the Bedales Art Block, I left in 1999 to study Art History at the University of York followed by a Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Essex. I always knew I wanted to be around art but was realistic about my own abilities not to rely on making a living from it!

After graduating I worked at the British Museum and V&A in temporary exhibitions, then at the Science Museum on permanent galleries and capital projects. In 2015, my family and I left London and moved back to Steep in search of space and fresh air for our two young boys. At this point it felt inevitable that my career in museums would be put on hold while our family grew up.

Soon after, however, I heard that the local Petersfield Museum, which opened the year I left Bedales, had recently purchased the adjoining Police Station. It also received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to renovate its existing building in the Old Courthouse, and design and build new galleries, collections facilities, exhibition and learning spaces and a courtyard café. I felt strongly that this project and I shared a destiny, and was delighted to be appointed as Project Manager in December 2016.

My job was to engage and lead a design team to deliver the museum’s vision of being at the heart of local life and also offer a compelling attraction for visitors from further afield. The historic Victorian buildings combined with striking architecture will create welcoming social areas and stimulating learning spaces. It will be a family friendly space that will inspire visitors of all ages to investigate the region’s many historic and cultural assets and to explore the surrounding countryside.

During the design development process, it was proposed that a map of the South Downs National Park be inlaid into the surface of the courtyard. This is made of granite slabs showing Petersfield and surrounding villages represented by brass and stainless steel icons. Some will be easily recognisable to those who know the area but some are more obscure so accompanying interpretation will be used as a guide to explore this striking artwork and the local area. This was all designed pre-COVID, but now offers a safe way to access the museum in an outdoor setting. Visitors can enter the cosy courtyard for a coffee and enjoy the wide-ranging, engaging collections and diverse educational and events programmes.

The team celebrate the end of construction, November 2020

The new and improved Petersfield Museum will tell the story of this ancient market town and surrounding villages through objects, art, literature and dress produced or collected by its residents. The collection includes the work of local artist Flora Twort and archaeology from prehistoric barrows on Petersfield Heath. Forming a significant part of the collection is The Bedales Collection of Historic Dress donated to the museum in 2007. This includes over 1,000 items from the 18th century to modern day and was built up over a 50-year period by the school, and particularly by music and drama teacher Rachel Cary Field (staff, 1941 – 1975).

The collection mirrors 250 years of social and cultural change and includes rare and nationally significant pieces, including an item recently loaned to the Design Museum for the ‘Women Fashion Power’ exhibition. A number of garments have strong local provenance and the great majority of the collection formed part of the Bedales Wardrobe.

Of the dresses, an aesthetic, Liberty style, cream silk dress from the mid-1890s is particularly rare, as are comparable Arts and Crafts garments from the early 1900s. Such ‘countercultural garments’ survive in small numbers, with the V&A, Museum of London and Platt Hall, Manchester holding most of the few surviving examples.

The museum also holds a nationally important collection of some 2,000 books by and about the renowned poet, writer and Steep resident, Edward Thomas (1878-1917). Like so many others, and this is still so true today, the Thomas family were attracted to this area by three things: its direct rail link to London, its countryside and, of course, Bedales, which Edward’s wife Helen knew of before it relocated from Haywards Heath in the early 20th century.

The Poet’s Stone

The collection is held within a new Edward Thomas Study Centre which is open, by appointment, to students, readers, researchers and visitors, who can explore his work and then the wonderful landscape around us that inspired him, and many others, so much – and continues to do so. Edward Thomas is amongst the War Poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey. The Poet Laureate Ted Hughes considered Thomas to be “the Father of us all”, and his life and work is included in the National Curriculum. Thomas’ time living in Steep coincides with a critical phase in his life when he made the transition from literary critic to poet.

Thomas’ connections to Petersfield are important to understanding his life and work, which features and interprets the countryside of Hampshire, the South Downs and the south of England. Amongst items on display, or available to view, in the Edward Thomas Study Centre is a copy of one of his daughter’s Bedales exercise books, in which he has drafted three poems.

The Petersfield Museum’s courtyard, looking across to the café and Edward Thomas Study Centre

In the museum’s final gallery, visitors can see a film of original footage shot on location in Petersfield and the surrounding area, capturing the local diversity of architecture, history, landscape, wildlife and culture. This includes shots of both the Harrow Inn and views from the Poet’s Stone, which many of you will be familiar with. The stone is a memorial to Edward Thomas, which is still the subject of regular walks from both the main school and Dunhurst and Dunannie.

What makes this film so special, emotive and rooted in the area, is that it is overlaid with a recording of Daniel Day-Lewis (1970 – 1975) reading Thomas’ poetry, the use of which was permitted by the Poetry Archive.

Like so many things, the pandemic has delayed the opening of the museum, but we very much hope that doors will open to the public later this year. Working at the London national museums was infinitely inspiring, exciting and challenging, but having the chance to be part of the team to create a museum in my hometown, is a dream come true.

The new and improved Petersfield Museum opened to the public in June 2021. Tickets can be booked in advance online at the Petersfield Museum website, or at the Welcome Desk as you arrive at the museum. The museum is open Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm, and Sundays and August Bank Holiday, 11am – 4pm.

Standing for Steep Parish Council

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Bedales has a long and proud association with Steep Parish Council. Over the years many members of our Bedalian community have been elected councillors and this year I am currently in the running to join them…

For the last seven years I’ve lived on the Bedales estate where I manage the school farm and teach Outdoor Work. Steep is where I live and work and where my children go to school.

One of the key things I teach our students is how to live and work together. Whilst we devote much time to environmental aspects such as animal husbandry, farm-to-fork education, planting hedgerows, growing, land management and traditional craftsmanship, we also look at the social aspects too. These include how to live respectfully and happily in a close-knit community.

It has been a difficult few years for our village. Not just because of the pandemic, but also because of deep rifts over the Church Road land and the proposed development which has divided this wonderful Steep community of ours, which Bedales is very much part of.

Sitting on my couch getting cross with a Brazilian president about the Amazon rain forest is easy. Taking the time to meet with the parish council in a public consultation about the future of a patch of land requires some degree of effort. However if we encourage our students to ask questions, challenge ideas, to consider alternative views, listen to others and develop their own thinking. Then certainly I need to live what I preach…

I think I could contribute to an effective, sustainable solution, however there is a lot more to our community than this one, polarising issue.

For example, what could we do for our amazing Steep School? What could we do about traffic calming and making the roads safer? Access to green spaces? Strengthening the relationship between the schools, nurseries, and local residents? How could we build relationships between the young and the old?

I would like to help bring the community together, which is why I’m asking people to vote for me in the forthcoming Steep Parish elections.

I have a deep commitment to this community and a strong desire to see it come back together. I would love to be given the chance to make a difference in it. I believe I could put this experience to great use on the parish council.

Only a small number of you may be eligible to vote in these elections, however every little helps. Vote for me on July 15!

Farewell from outgoing Chair of Governors Matthew Rice

Valedictory letters aren’t much worth reading as… well… the writer is about to disappear in in a cloud of dust, but not to say thank you for having me feels rude so here is a thank you letter from your departing Head Governor.

I came to Bedales in 1975, the September before the hot summer when we sloshed water on our shirts before lessons, when the orchard was white as straw and when the pine trees made Steep smell like Provence. Mr Jacks, the school’s third headmaster came to visit; Tim Slack, the fourth was trying for a second time to be Liberal MP for Petersfield (he very nearly won); Roger Powell showed us how he was restoring the Book of Kells in Froxfield and plenty of staff had been teaching long enough to have known our founder John Haden Badley.

Nearly 50 years on and plenty is unchanged, the Beechwood-Wooly hangers as backdrop and the mountain of Butser Hill to the South West and the wraparound green country that defines the school. In some ways the place is also unrecognisable as the last 20 years have seen the building of half of the school with the Orchard Building, the Art and Design Studios and now the Studies. But watching the students come out of Assembly it is hard not to see how very recognisable the actual body of the school is, and how the real continuum of Bedales remains its true and rightful owners: your children. Staff and governors, heads and chairmen steer and scheme but the heart of the place beats independently. It being Bedales, very independently.

In the 13 years that I’ve been on the Board (10 of them wearing the chief weasel’s hat), I have seen brilliant staff and children working together, watched staff building the roof of the pavilion, Old Bedalians restoring the Outdoor Work barn and building the loggia around the dining room, students involved in new designs for buildings and planting 40,000 daffodils. I have seen new giants arrive who will utterly inform your children’s lives like the great teachers of the past whose memorials have seen the Lupton Hall crammed to the gunwales with grateful students.

The late unpleasantness of COVID has made some of the joys of communal living seem hard to hang onto in these last two years but now we are (partly) back and lying in the orchard or bank, walking round the Mem Pitch and smelling those pines again.

Steve Nokes is taking over as Chair. He is an ex head and clever, wise and funny. You are in good hands I am sure of that. But more importantly in Magnus and Richard Lushington you have a team who make the school feel secure, impressive and progressive.

So thank you parents. Both for allowing me the actually huge privilege of doing this job for so long   but more importantly for choosing Bedales. Those hundreds of decisions form and sustain and populate my very best loved school and will provide the Bedalians and Old Bedalians and maybe Head Governors that will keep the show on the road.

Ave atque vale
Matthew

Bedales Dance and Drama – a year in review

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama and Liz Wood, Head of Dance

Despite another challenging COVID year, the Dance and Drama department have had another incredibly busy and successful year and we wanted to celebrate those successes with you.

All components of the Bedales Assessed Course (BAC) and A Level courses were completed, including practical units by all students on the courses. Schemes of work were adapted and students made video projects as practical assessments in lockdown, and when we have been in school, performance assessments have been recorded as evidence and shared digitally rather than visited by external examiners, or in some cases, rather than being viewed and appreciated by live audiences. This really allowed the students to gain skills in areas that would not have looked at previously.

We have still put on four co-curricular productions, adhering to restrictions and delivered in different mediums – whether to a closed audience live, live-streamed and shared afterwards, or shared as an entirely digital production. Our peripatetic lessons have continued online and live, and exams have been taken. Our enrichment programmes have culminated in performances, with the students concluding the hard work they have put into it after pausing projects during school closure.

We have all learned new skills and adapted our skillset to navigate these uncertain times. Yet we have grown from it, consistently certain in our determination to stay creatively challenged and celebrating the area we love – the arts.

The Autumn Term included BAC Dance and Drama assessments. The Block 4 and 5 dramatists performed devised work influenced by Greek theatre and practitioners. The dancers worked on live performances in the style of a multitude of practitioners, from August Bournonville to Alvin Ailey. 6.2 actors performed their re-enactments of classic texts in the style of Brecht, Ad Infinitum and Forced Entertainment. The Autumn Production was Constellations by Nick Payne, a beautiful two-hander about a relationship, love and quantum physics. The artistic interpretation of this play was created due to COVID, and yet practically and artistically was so much more exciting because of those creative choices. Block 5 and 6.2 actors appeared in multi-roles, in duplicate casts, complimented by 6.1 dancers who personified the themes and emotions of the piece, through their use of movement. It was stunning and the chemistry of the actors was incredible, despite the metre plus distance between them at all times!

The Spring Term was a digital one. BAC Drama students performed their stories in The Terrible Infants as recordings, editing and adding live music in the style of Kneehigh. At home, the Block 4 dancers continued to work on the sofa dance, choreographing in their own homes ready to bring it alive, and the Block 5 dancers rehearsed group choreographies together online, for each of them to create a dance-film based on an array of different stimuli. The dancers also took part in online external practitioner workshops to keep them moving.

The 6.2s acted their naturalist Rotterdam as a screenplay and the Spring Production of Machinal was made in to a film. The students were sent green screens, rehearsals took place on Microsoft Teams, the crew researched costume, hair and make-up and the actors sourced it at home, filmed themselves and the footage was spliced together and edited to make the final piece. It was released episode by episode in half term but if you did not get a chance to watch it, click here to enjoy it, episode by episode, or all at once if you prefer! The playwriting enrichment writers also completed the 30-minute original scripts which were entered into the National Theatre’s New Views competition. 

The Summer Term saw us back at school collaborating together and attending the theatre once more. Bedales Dance Performs saw 21 of the dance pieces that the students had been working on over the year. They included performances from all year groups and including one of the modern peripatetic lessons. View and buy photos from Bedales Dance Performs here. The students were incredibly excited to get back into the Theatre and perform their work, and even though there was no physical contact within the choreographies, this did not stop them performing with passion, focus and commitment.

The A Level final evidence was collected and recorded. 6.2 dramatists created two incredible devised performances and performed a Berkoff piece in the studio and a Footsbarn site specific promenade performance. The two student directors finally picked their projects back up again and Nay Murphy’s Definition of Charisma (which was longlisted in the National Theatre’s New Views competition) and August Janklow’s True West were both enjoyed by closed audiences in the Drama Studio. The finale of the year, including a cast and crew of over 60, was Chariots of Fire, full of actors and dancers, which was incredibly well attended and well received at the end of term. 

A huge thank you from us to all the students and staff who have gone above and beyond to make all of the above possible and professional. It is your tenacity and talent that makes us so proud of the Dance and Drama department, especially in the face of adversity and we look forward to a new year, with all the new skills and insight we have gained. 

Bedales Summer Hockey Festival

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

Last Friday saw the culmination of the Bedales Summer Hockey Festival. This has run for six weeks in the Summer Term, with over 70 students signed up and good representation from all year groups. I think it is a real credit to Bedales Hockey that we are able to produce a culture that facilitates these opportunities. Week in, week out, it has been incredibly pleasing to see every single player and team consistently perform at a good level and striking the right competitive balance.  

Finals day was no different, with extremely close match ups in the semi-finals between Team Wheeler vs Team Mackillop-Hall and Team Upton vs Team Shuster. It was Team Mackillop-Hall and Team Shuster who came out on top and went on to produce a tight and exciting final that had to eventually be settled by a round of penalty shuffles. Congratulations to Team Shuster who eventually emerged as winner.

In another closely run competition the ‘Golden Stick Award’ for the festival’s top goal scorer – which featured an incredible 18 different goal scorers – was won by Block 4 student Joe Cullen.

Thank you to Mariela Walton, who was instrumental in the smooth running of the festival.

Parents’ Day Tennis Finals

By Graeme Coulter, Head of Tennis

On Saturday the finals of the intra school tennis tournaments were contested, with parents able to come and watch for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Six finals were contested over the course of six hours.

Harry Hornsby and Nikolas Beecham took on Hari Walton and Tommy Hornsby in the boys doubles. The youngsters from Dunhurst played to a truly outstanding level to win 6-0, 1-6, 10-5. The mixed doubles was very closely contested by Paddy Arrowsmith, Sasha Arney, Tobias Bonham Carter and Jade Mark. This final was a brilliant match where momentum flowed form one pair to the other. It was eventually won by Paddy and Sasha 6-4, 6-7, 10-5. Grace Vernor-Miles, Lally Arengo-Jones, Sasha Arney and Alisia Leach played the girls doubles final. This was another close match where either side could have won, but Grace and Lally held their nerve to win for the second year running 6-4, 7-6.

The junior girls singles was played between Lola Mackay and Rebekah Leach. This was an outstanding match and both girls showed amazing grit and determination to compete through injuries. Rebekah was victorious after nearly two hours 6-4, 3-6, 10-6. The Junior Boys singles was contested between Nikolas Beecham and Hari Walton. Both players played very well with Hari winning in straight sets.

The final match of the day was the senior boys singles. This was played between Tobias Bonham Carter and Hari Walton. This was the best final I have seen since the introduction of the intra school tennis tournaments 12 years ago. Hari won his third title of the day 6-4, 7-6, but credit to both players who were absolutely outstanding. I could not have been more proud of all those involved. You were a huge credit to Bedales Tennis and Bedales School as a whole.

Exploring John Keats’ Winchester

By Eloise Cooper, 6.2

On a sunny Wednesday, the remainder of the 6.2 English students ventured to Winchester, accompanied by David, Julia and Magnus, to explore the area that influenced so much of Keats’s later poetry, and to follow the walk he took along the River Itchen that inspired him to write his ‘Ode to Autumn’, often described by critics as the perfect poem.

We began in the Winchester College Fellows’ Library where Dr Richard Foster, curator of the college’s collection, showed us a first edition of Keats’s 1820 Poems which included the ‘Ode to Autumn’. We also saw a First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623. The we had a talk by Dr Gary Farnell from the University of Winchester about Keats’s stay in Winchester in 1820.

We then retraced Keats’s route from the Hospital of St Cross to the cathedral close, and then to Colebrook Street, where Magnus’s friend Amelia Ashton hosted us in her garden for a picnic lunch and another talk by Gary, this time focussing on The Eve of St Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and Ode to Autumn.  We ended the afternoon with a sonnet writing competition.

Not only did this allow us a fresh set of eyes on the texts we had been studying for months, but allowed us to build up a greater picture of the surrounding world of Keats’s poetry. Thank you so much to the English department and Magnus for a wonderful day.

The 1820 Poems in which ‘Ode to Autumn’ first appeared
First folio edition of Shakespeare’s Complete Works
Walking along the River Itchen

Discussions on diversity

By Theo Paul, 6.2

Bedales is, and has always been, a school which believes in equality, diverse thought and inclusion. This was once again epitomised in the dialogue created during Garrett Day. Throughout the day, sessions such as Generational perspectives of race, Anti-racism: how to be an ally, White privilege -White fragility and Unconscious bias: how can we make Bedales more inclusive? enabled Bedalians of all backgrounds, life experiences and year groups to converse and learn about topics that affect everyone’s everyday life through conscious and unconscious bias. Each session offered a unique insight into the challenges people face due to race, gender and class.

Sessions 1 and 2 focused on generational perspectives of race and were run by Lele, Serati and Olivia Jones. Lele, Serati and Olivia gave fascinating insight into the challenges and discrimination people of colour still face to this day. The conversation was centred on the discrimination and racism that Lele, Serati and Olivia have faced, in Lele’s case especially during Apartheid in South Africa, and the racism that continues to plague the UK and the world as a whole. A key point raised was that racism isn’t always obvious. Racism is institutionalised and can be seen through subtle gestures or the tone in which a person is talked to.

Sessions 3 and 4 were held by Old Bedalian Lulu McConville. The sessions on Anti-racism: how to be an ally and White privilege – White fragility were engaging and interactive. This allowed for a great participation from all whom attended the sessions. The session on Anti-racism: how to be an ally included students defining what racism is and how to intervene when a person is being racially abused. In addition, the session on White privilege and White fragility enabled white students to realise their privileges and inherent advantages they have in life due to their skin colour, whilst also seeing the role white fragility plays in upholding white privilege and stopping further education on the topic.

Session 5, led by Jo Mayhook-Walker and Gordon Dale, focused on the severity of unconscious bias and how we can make Bedales more inclusive. The consensus was that the first step in dealing with unconscious bias is being aware of it, as this will help you understand why you are behaving in certain ways towards people. Furthermore, ways in which Bedales could be more inclusive that were discussed ranged from more representation for international boarders to a way of making it possible for more disadvantaged people to come to the school.

The afforementioned sessions on diversity, organised by Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness, enabled us to better understand the difficulties people face due to all forms of discrimination. Moreover, it raised much needed awareness and educated students and staff on how, where and why discrimination happens and how to stop it when possible.

Garrett Day celebrations

On Wednesday, staff and students came together for the inaugural Garrett Day. As Badley Day and Powell Day do, Garrett Day gave us a valuable opportunity to work together in a ‘whole school effort’, practising the school motto – ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’ – while working on a range of projects to improve the outdoor environment at Bedales and beyond.
 
This year’s projects saw Outdoor Work BAC students dismantle an old chicken hut in preparation for replacing it with a new timber framed building as part of their BAC and timber framing enrichment next year, while others dug foundations for a field shelter on the field by the Roman Road. As well as litter-picking, baking, wool sorting and weeding ten wheelbarrows worth of thistles in the meadow between ODW and Art & Design, students volunteered at Steep Primary, where they moved an existing chicken coop, re-fixed four existing fence posts and installed six new ones, installed approximately 20 metres of chicken wire, and built and provided a gate.

Block 5 student Raph, who volunteered at Steep Primary, said: “We spent our time digging and placing posts, followed by lining the perimeterwith chicken wire and creating some doors as a way in and out. It was an enjoyable and rewading day, and worth the effort we put in.”

Global Awareness sessions sparked enlightening discussions on diversity (read more about the sessions below), while the Parents’ Day Exhibition began to take shape in the Art & Design Building, rehearsals for the Summer Production and Parents’ Day Concert were in full swing in the Theatre and Lupton Hall, enthusiastic games of Flag Football were played out on the Steephurst pitches, and students practised their calligraphy skills in the Memorial Library and visited Dunannie to read to our youngest pupils.

Block 5 student Ava said: “On Monday I took part in Garrett Day, starting in a ‘whole school effort’, litter-picking around the campus. The weather wasn’t great so I was kitted out with wellies and waterproofs. Later, I dug the foundations for the field shelter with Clive and Al. It was a good hands-on project, and I enjoyed getting messy in the mud. After lunch, we watched the Head Student Team’s Assembly, where we voted for next year’s Head Student Team. I then went to play Flag Football on Steephurst pitches – this was great fun and enabled me to play sport with other year groups and get to know them better. Finally, I went to paint the Pavilion and did some pond clearing on Boys’ Flat. Garrett Day was a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the campus and work together outside timetabled lessons.”

Kicking off half term with DofE Silver Practice Expedition

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

For 48 students in Blocks 4 and 5, half term began with a Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Silver Practice Expedition from Bedales to South Harting, once again organised by the approved activity provider Ridgeline Adventures.
 
The weekend began with a training session at Bedales on the morning of 28 May, during which the students – who were divided into eight groups of four – checked their kit and planned their routes before setting off. Like the Block 3 students who completed their Bronze Expedition last term, students navigated their way from Bedales to Duncombe Farm in East Meon, where they camped overnight.
 
The following day, students continued their journey along the South Downs Way, past the Sustainability Centre, setting up camp for the night at the bottom of Butser Hill in Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Here, we perfected cooking and camp craft and some Block 5s celebrated a sixteenth birthday with a Nigella Lawson chocolate Guinness cake, which I’d organised, Lucy McIlwraith’s daughter Lily baked and Head of Wellbeing Kirsten McLintock delivered to the camp. We were also visited by Deputy Head (Academic) Will Goldsmith, who drove to the campsite to greet everyone with boxes of Celebrations and Miniature Heroes, taking the time to talk to the students. Director of External Relations Rob Reynolds also paid us a visit while out cycling.
 
On the final day of the expedition, students travelled around the South Downs Way, following different routes to arrive at South Harting Hill at 3pm, where they were met by assessors for a debrief in glorious sunshine. At this stage participants were certainly ready for home comforts but the mood on the minibuses that returned to school was triumphant.
 
With the practice expedition complete, the group are now set to complete their Silver Expedition in the New Forest in the first week of the summer holiday. As terrain is tougher here, but navigation is trickier in the New Forest, it will not be without its challenges. The practice expedition presented challenges of its own, as those students who found themselves lost en route or over packed and struggled with a heavy backpack can testify! However, invaluable lessons have also been learned, particularly about working together as a team to overcome challenges and work towards a common goal.
 
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend a success – the students, the team from Ridgeline Adventures, and accompanying Bedales staff Allen Shone, David Mann and Kirsten McLintock.