Visiting Thomas Hardy’s Wessex – perspectives

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On Tuesday, 6.2 English Literature students went on a trip to Dorset to visit some of the key sites in Thomas Hardy’s life, to complement their study of Hardy’s 1841 novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as well as some of his poetry.

The group visited Hardy’s Cottage in Higher Bockhampton, where Hardy was born, grew up and wrote his early novels, before going onto Stinsford Church, where Hardy’s heart is buried with his first wife, Emma Lavinia, and walking across the River Frome, across which Angel Clare had carried Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

The group also visited Max Gate, the atmospheric Victorian home which was famously designed by the author and remained his home until his death in 1928, before hearing from two English Literature PhD students, Laura Cox and Sophie Welsh, about Hardy’s work. Here, some students share their perspectives from the trip.

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Oscar Clark: Sinking into Hardy’s armchair by the fireplace he designed, tiled by ceramics he found, surrounded on three sides by the privacy of a screen that has stood since he sat there and looking at a mirror upcycled by the man himself, I listened to Neill, the National Trust volunteer guiding us through our visit to Max Gate. A scholar on all aspects of Hardy, Neill showed us the humourous, sensitive and at times difficult man, as well as the nuances and foibles of his personality being reflected in the features of the home he designed.

Isabella Doyle: My favourite moment from the trip was seeing Hardy’s Cottage, where he grew up. I learned much information from the guide who showed us around Hardy’s former home. She explained how Hardy’s mother had strongly advised her five children not to marry, and Hardly was the only one who went against her advice – twice.

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Psychology Crime and Deviance Conference

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By Eliza Goodfellow, 6.2 and Psychology Don

Last Tuesday, the Psychology department welcomed Andrew Lewis and Allan Walker, a convicted murderer and fraudster, to talk about their experiences with the UK’s criminal justice system and life with a criminal record as part of our Psychology Crime and Deviance Conference. They were accompanied by a forensic psychologist who has worked with psychopaths. Her role plays a part in the process of assessing whether prisoners will be able to function adequately if integrated back into society, without posing a threat to the public.

The criminal justice system was outlined to us, and we were given a scenario to discuss whether we thought the man involved was guilty of murder. It came as a surprise to us that the murder we were discussing as a group was in fact the lecturer’s trial – it was at that point that he revealed he was a murderer. The majority of students believed that in the scenario described, Andrew was innocent of murder, guilty primarily of grevious bodily harm (GBH) in an act of self-defence.

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Belarus Free Theatre visit

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By Livi Grout-Smith, Oscar Clark and Amber Pearson, 6.2

Last Wednesday morning, we were lucky enough to be visited by Natalia Koliada (Director) and Sophie Robins (Head of Communications) from the world renowned theatre company Belarus Free Theatre (BFT).

Created in Belarus in 2005 as an underground theatre company and having to perform in secret locations so as to protect themselves from prosecution from the Russian and Belarusian governments, BFT’s directors, Nikolai Khalezinm and Natalia Koliada, were forced to move to London to escape further persecution and have since directed their actors in rehearsal via Skype calls between London and Minsk. Having chosen the company as the inspiration for our final 6.2 devised piece, we had never thought we would ever get to meet one of them, let alone have lunch with them, as we did during their visit.

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Recreating ‘The Eve of St Agnes’

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A Level English Literature students were transported back in time on Monday when they took part in a practical exercise designed to reinforce their understanding of one of the course’s key texts – The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats – following the success of last year’s experience day centred around the same poem. 

The Eve of St Agnes, which is set in the Middle Ages, was inspired by the legend that unmarried women could see their future husband in their dreams if they performed certain rituals on 20 January, the evening before the feast of St Agnes.

It follows the young maiden Madeline as she escapes a loud and festive family party to go to her bedroom and perform the rituals, hoping to see her lover Porphyro in her dreams, despite being from opposite sides of two rival families.

Madeline does see Porphyro that evening, but her dreams morph into reality as her lover – having snuck into her room while she was at the party – emerges from his hiding place in the closet and attempts to rouse her by laying out a feast and playing the lute.

To bring them closer to Keats’ poem, 6.2 English students were asked to work in groups across two classes to produce tableaux representative of the poem. They sought the help of the school’s costume department to find appropriate attire and recreated the scenes in various locations – including the Lupton Hall, the sand quarry and All Saints Church in Steep, with some venturing as far as Midhurst.

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Bedales Physicists visit CERN, Geneva

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By Anthony White, 6.2 and Physics Don

On 24 January, 6.2 Physics students were fortunate enough to travel to the largest laboratory for particle research to date – the Conseil Européen Pour La Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in Geneva. It provides physicists with the ability to accelerate particles to approximately 1.08 billion kilometres per hour, while then observing the results of their collisions.

The first day saw us visiting the Red Cross Museum, an exhibition dedicated to the international humanitarian organisation that brings relief to people in the event of war or natural disaster. In the evening, we visited the History of Science Museum in Lake Side Park. On display were over 800 instruments, mainly used by Swiss scientists, dating back to the 17th century.

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Bringing Keats to life

By Thomasina Rowntree, 6.2 and English Don

On the Eve of St Agnes – 20 January – 6.2 English Literature students were invited to Head of English David Anson’s house to listen to a reading of John Keats’ poem of the same name, which was inspired by the traditions and superstitions surrounding the date. St Agnes’ Day falls on 21 January.

Traditionally, girls wishing to learn who their partner would be, performed rituals on the Eve of St Agnes, hoping that their future lover would be revealed to them in a dream. Keats took this idea and created his poem, a fantastical tale which merges dreams and reality, ending with two lovers disappearing into the night. It links the ideas of the Gothic with Pagan rituals and witchcraft which surround St Agnes.

On the evening itself, we made our way down Church Road on a suitably frosty, starlit night, in keeping with the “bitter chill” described at the beginning of the poem. Greeted with a warming fire, we gathered round a feast, much like the one which Porphyro lays out in The Eve of St Agnes, to listen to the poem. There were “jellies soother than the creamy curd”, “lucent syrops”, “manna and dates”, served “on golden dishes and in baskets bright / Of wreathed silver”. Eating these delicacies while listening to the reading of the poem, we were transported into Keat’s imagined and magical world.

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New ‘Living with the Land’ course launching September 2020

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By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work, and Feline Charpentier, Teacher of Outdoor Work

From September 2020, students in 6.1 will be able to choose a new Outdoor Work (ODW) course as one of their sixth form options. ‘Living with the Land’ is a two-year course which will equip students with the practical skills to live lightly off the land, enabling them to look at the wider context for the issues surrounding the environment and our impact upon it. Living with the land around us means having a greater awareness of our environment, living with the seasons, trying to reduce our footprint and applying our new-found knowledge to other aspects of our lives and the community.

It is a natural progression from all aspects covered in the ODW BAC, however it goes into far greater depth and includes significant self-directed work, including a portfolio and a ‘major’ project in the final year. There is currently no clear pathway for a student wishing to take a more practical course at sixth form in environmental subjects. The closest comparable courses are Countryside Management, Food Skills, Sustainability or the planned Natural History GCSE. No courses combine traditional building, cooking and craft skills with aspects of ecology, sustainability and community.

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Senior Maths Challenge success

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By Martin Hanak, Head of Maths

At the beginning of November, 20 students from Block 5, 6.1 and 6.2 volunteered to sit the Senior Maths Challenge.

Around 80,000 from across the UK took part in the competition; 15 Bedalians were awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates, with Aidan Hall, Maggie Luo and Annabelle Snell all winning Gold. They also qualified for the next round, the Senior Kangaroo, which places them amongst the top 10% of all the mathletes that took part in the competition.

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Sixth Form physicists visit the Joint European Torus

By Tobias Hardy, Head of Physics

To fend off the global warming crisis, we need to appeal to the hottest place on earth. The sun’s core is 10 million degrees, but in the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham, the doughnut-shaped plasma in the reactor consistently reaches temperatures of over 100 million degrees to initiate nuclear fusion between hydrogen isotopes and release enormous quantities of energy. The hydrogen is sourced from seawater, and there are no harmful waste products. What is not to like? Unfortunately, it’s fiendishly difficult to achieve.

The Sixth Form physicists visited JET last week, for an inspiring tour and lectures. The scientists and engineers explained the current developments of this futuristic technology, which has come a long way since its inception in 1983, and has inspired the next generation of fusion reactors, driving the plasma science and fusion research. Ground-breaking and innovative engineering solutions are necessary for the magnetic containment, keeping the super-heated plasma just metres from the surrounding vacuum at almost zero, to harness this potentially limitless resource.

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Product Design students visit plastics manufacturer

By Max Lobbenberg, 6.2 and Product Design Don

On 21 November, the 6.2 Product Design class visited Broanmain Ltd, a specialist technical plastics moulder. Broanmain is a family-owned company, which has been operating for over 60 years. They support a wide range of industries from aerospace, electronics and defence to the science sector and consumer goods.

After a presentation on how the injection moulding machines work, Broanmain’s Operations Director, Jo Davis, and Production Manager, Thomas Catinat, showed us around their factory.

Whilst the core of their business is focused on producing injection moulded polymer components, they are one of only 15 companies in the UK to operate specialist thermoset compressive moulding machines. The key difference with these to the usual thermoplastics is that the material is not re-mouldable, and is therefore non-recyclable.

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