Block 3 Fireside Night

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

At the turning of the light in autumn we have many ways to celebrate and to remind ourselves that light will return. From softly glowing candles to brightly coloured fireworks, people have always noted the change in the season with festivals that bring us together. At Bedales we have the Block 3 Fireside Night each year, which brings together students and staff around the fire in the beautiful dining room to tell tall tales, recite poetry and sing songs. We do it all from memory and the focus for all of us is entertainment rather than perfection; having a go is far more important than getting all the words right. This year, Block 3 student Elliot Cundy has written his thoughts about the night.

By Elliot Cundy, Block 3

Lit by the warm glow from the fire and the flicker of candles, the dining room began to fill with eager students, settling into a semi-circle around the hearth for the Block 3 Fireside Night. Crackling flames, an absence of electronics, and performances from memory of literature old and new, created an atmosphere akin to that of many centuries ago. Up until 1930, 50% of the global population was illiterate, so performances were learnt orally and spoken with no written assistance. Reciting a poem in front of many people with no prompts can be very hard, meaning that the priority becomes quality and entertainment over perfection.

As well as students performing a variety of poems, from cheerful ballads to dark quatrains, many teachers took part in the proceedings. Lucy McIlwraith opened by singing ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ with its original lyrics and closed the evening singing lyrics from ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ to ‘Humpty Dumpty’ to the same tune to show how almost any poem written in ballad form fits this tune. Another highlight was Will Goldsmith performing ‘Shall I compare thee to a summers day’ by Shakespeare which provided an unexpected turn to the evening but showed us all how it doesn’t matter if you don’t get all the words right!

Near the end of the night, I performed a poem called Barn Owl by Leslie Norris. It describes the life and death of a beautiful bird. Curiously, it ends with a thought, that the death of ‘Snowy’ the owl might carry a deeper meaning. I learned the poem by practising each verse one at a time, out loud and alternating between reading off the page and speaking from memory. In the English lessons leading up to Fireside Night, we were able to practise in front of just the class to get a feeling for what it would be like, which was something that really helped prepare us for the night ahead. When my time to perform arose, I instantly felt the nerves, but they were soothed by the comforting warmth of the fire behind me. Trying not to rush, I worked my way through the poem, dozens of pairs of eyes looking up at me. On reaching the final verse, the relief arrived, and I comfortably finished the poem.The greatest thing about performing is the small moment of silence between finishing and the audience clapping, when you realise that nothing went wrong, and your practice has paid off. Delicious hot chocolate and cookies were the final reward for our work and ended the evening on a high.   

Block 3 adventure

By Greg Clarke, Teacher of Maths and Block 3 Tutor

This year’s intake of Block 3 – plus their form tutors and Head of Transition Clive Burch – spent last week at Cobnor Activities Centre on Chichester Harbour in West Sussex. The week is designed to assimilate the students as they settle into Bedales, with camping, an expedition, and a range of outdoor pursuits – plus plenty of card games, snacking and UNO – helping everybody enjoy the bracing coastal air, reacquaint with old friends after the summer and find lots of new friends with whom to enjoy the next few years at Bedales.

At various times in the week every group enjoyed kayaking, canoeing and sailing around the bay in a Hawk, working as a team to launch their craft from the little jetty. We also built rafts to race one another in, crafted from wooden posts and plastic barrels lashed together with ropes knotted into bowlines and half-hitches. I’ll leave you to imagine how sturdy one or two of those rafts were.

For landlubbers there was archery with the instructor who had a keen interest in history, aeroball (think of vertical basketball on a trampoline inside a cage, if you can), and practice at all the camping skills necessary for the expedition: pitching a tent; lighting a stove; cooking pasta in a mess tin; bending tent pegs; and packing a rucksack.

The expedition was a tough two days’ worth of hiking along the South Downs Way, in what turned out to be glorious sunshine that lifted spirits, drained sunscreen supplies and provided vital vitamin D for sustained walking. On my night at the campsite at Cocking, folk from the RAF entertained us all with several flypasts and stunts in their Chinook, and I feasted upon a gourmet pasta pesto (topped with parmesan) prepared by a team of Block 3 chefs.

After a lot of fun, by Friday afternoon there ensued a frantic all-hands-on-deck clean up and pack up to leave Cobnor looking miraculously even tidier than when we arrived. A big well done to everybody for surviving the rollercoaster up-and-South-Downs experience that was Cobnor 2021.

See photos from the Block 3 induction trip to Cobnor here.

New academic year, new Drama productions

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

We have started the year with two exciting opportunities for the students and have been auditioning this week for the Whole School Show and the Sixth Form Show. The new Block 3 students were particularly brave and auditioned before they left for Cobnor!

We have started the year with two exciting opportunities for the students and have been auditioning this week for the Whole School Show and the Sixth Form Show. The new Block 3 students were particularly brave and auditioned before they left for Cobnor!

Jessica Asamoa, Drama Scholar and Drama Don, said of her experiences of auditioning for both productions: “On Tuesday evening, many students across the blocks auditioned for the Whole School Show, as well as some of the 6.1s and 6.2s who also auditioned for the Sixth Form Show. Auditioning is always a good experience to have and a fantastic skill to develop because it helps with confidence. It was also great to do an audition in a friendly and welcoming environment: everyone was very respectful and kind to each other so we were all able to present ourselves in the best light that we could. 

In the sixth form audition, we worked on some drama exercises. We were looking at how we can become more aware of those around us. This was very useful and I think most of the sixth formers who auditioned were able to gain more insight into how they focus their attention while performing. 

For the whole school audition, we worked on freeze frames and tableaux in groups. We were given a line of a poem as a stimulus and then had to create our freeze frames/ tableaux inspired by this. It was great to do some choral work and everyone had a lot of fun with it: there was a lot of laughter and smiles.

All in all, I think any audition that ends with people feeling excited, happy and comfortable is a successful one and I am looking forward to seeing how these projects develop.”

Sport update: District Athletics, Mountbatten Stadium

By Mariela Walton, Teacher of PE & Sport

On 18 May, we took 18 of our Block 3 and 4 athletes down to the Mountbatten Stadium for the District Athletics event. In previous years we have taken 40 or 50 of our top athletes down to compete, but due to COVID restrictions, our numbers were limited meaning we took smaller teams and required all of our athletes to compete in multiple events.

Despite the rain in Petersfield the sun shone down on us in Portsmouth, and thanks to the excellent commitment displayed by our Bedales students, we managed to fill each event and get some exciting podium finishes!

Sage Bidwell cinched the win in the Inter Girls’ 200m, Greta Stillwell took first place in the Junior Girls’ Shot Put and Sol Arbib comfortably won the Inter Boys’ 1500m, with a time of just 4.55. First place finishes also went to Bruno Heggie, Louis Pattison, Sam Gibbon and Lola Mackay. Jago Levine qualified for the next round and will have the opportunity to compete at the Regional Athletics meet for Shot Put. He will be joined by Gordon Thistleton-Smith, who qualified with his 100m time.

After a successful day of events both of the Block 3 teams finished in fourth position of eight, which was a great effort. Our Block 4 boys team finished in second place out of nine, and our Block 4 Girls team took home the win, coming first out of seven teams. 

Intrepid Bedalians complete Bronze DofE Expedition 

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Last weekend, the team from the approved activity provider Ridgeline Adventures returned to run a two-day Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Bronze Expedition from Bedales to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
 
On Saturday morning, 33 Block 3 students walked out of Bedales in five groups for the first leg of the expedition to Duncombe Farm, East Meon. Each group, supported by an assessor from Ridgeline Adventures, had planned a different route to East Meon, which is around 2.5 hours from Bedales in a straight-line distance.
 
Although each of the groups were required to pass the Seven Stars pub on the A272 as part of their journey, the different routes they followed varied their experiences, as one group – who found themselves lost en route, and were forced to backtrack to get back on course – can testify! There were other challenges, too, such as loose soles on one student’s walking boots, which she successfully repaired after improvising with some duct tape. With the first group arriving at Duncombe Farm at 3.30pm, and the last group arriving at 6.30pm, the first day proved that you don’t always need to travel far for an adventure.
 
After camping overnight in East Meon, early morning birdsong at 3.30am provided an unwelcome wake-up call on day two. However, despite the birds’ morning chorus, the start of the day was deferred until 5.30am, when one student decided it was time to start dismantling his tent ready for the second part of his journey – much to the exasperation of his campmates!
 
Once everyone was up for the day, the students continued onward on their expedition to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, ploughing their energy into scaling Butser Hill from the North side. On reaching the top, groups were met by assessors for a debrief, before they triumphantly walked down to meet the school minibuses and parents in the Visitor Centre car park. “How long will it take us to get back to school?” a student asked me as we reached our destination, to which I replied it would take around 10 minutes. “We’ve only travelled 10 minutes?!” was his bewildered response.
 
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend a success – the enthusiastic Block 3 students, the exceptional team from Ridgeline Adventures, and accompanying Bedales staff Gordon Dale, Clive Burch and Paul Beauchamp. This weekend it is the turn of Block 4 & 5 students as they complete their Silver Practice Expedition, also with Ridgeline Adventures.

Reflections on the NCEM Young Composers Award

An original composition by a Block 3 student Shoshana was recently shortlisted in the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM)’s Young Composers Award 2021. After performing her composition in the final on 13 May, Shoshana reflects here on her experience in the competition. Listen to Shoshana’s composition, ‘Dancing Through Time’, here.

By Shoshana Yugin-Power, Block 3

When I first heard about the NCEM Young Composers Award, I knew I had to enter for the chance to meet my favourite ensemble, Palisander. As a recorder player myself, I was keen to rise to the challenge to create a piece of dance music for four recorders.

The brief was broad and any dance music was allowed. I was inspired by the numerous YouTube videos I watched in lockdown of things changing rapidly through time – such as fashion, dance and music – and was particularly interested in the idea of the transition between the styles. My goal was to meet Palisander in person by being shortlisted for the final, but I never imagined that would really happen! I was thrilled to be contacted by NCEM to say I was in the final, after they had selected my piece from 68 other entries.

After numerous lockdowns and months when social distancing and bubbles had prevented orchestras and ensembles from gathering, it was with real excitement that I made my way to the city of York, home of the National Centre of Early Music, for the final earlier this month. Once I arrived in York (by train – I enjoyed every moment of the journey, including delays, as public transport in itself is something of a novelty at the moment), I made my way to St Margaret’s Church.

I was one of five finalists in the Under 18 category of the competition, which was sponsored by BBC Radio 3. I spent the day listening to the other finalists’ pieces and attending engaging workshops led by Dr Christopher Fox and Palisander. I was amazed with the standard of the other finalists and it was fascinating to see their interpretation of the brief.  The moment I heard the winning entry in the Under 18 category, I knew it would be the winner – even before I heard the others. It was the dance of swallows in a murmuration.

In the workshop, I had to present my piece and work with Palisander to develop it even further. I learnt so much about how to negotiate changes to my piece to suit the players and how to present my work confidently. In the evening, there was a private concert involving all the young composers’ pieces as well as several pieces from Palisander’s repertoire.

The whole day was an incredible experience. Not only has enabled me to see myself as a composer, but I made many new friends and contacts, the winning composer gave me a copy of the winning entry to play with my recorder friends, and I am already writing my next piece with much more confidence than I previously had.

Drama’s industry-based Wednesday Workshops continue into Summer Term

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

Three weeks into the new term and three phenomenal Wednesday Workshops have already been delivered. We have been so lucky with the wealth of experience that has been shared in these workshops and the generosity of professionals in the industry to share their time and their insight with our students has been invaluable.

Kate Winslet returned to deliver another workshop on characterisation, sharing her scripts and her own character notes alongside photographs from set. The students were enthralled by the schedules and script edits they saw and could truly appreciate the graft of acting and the research and exploration an actor should and must do to truly inhabit a role. Kate then delivered a separate more intimate session on American dialect for a student directed group and the difference in accents used by the actors at the end was astonishing. I know they will continue to practise using the crib sheets and techniques taught – and I will too!

Ben Press delivered his second session in person, and it was lovely to welcome him to Bedales and for him to share his experience and expertise in the Meisner method. Students were intrigued by this different way of working and the simplicity of responding and reacting to create truth on stage. I look forward to learning every Wednesday with the students and gaining these industry insights in the most memorable way.

Read a selection of students’ perspectives on the workshops below.

Poppy Brough, 6.2

Kate Winslet, a world-renowned actor, came to Bedales and delivered a second acting workshop for all students interested in Drama. She answered many questions from the students about her career delivering full and interesting answers, while also giving us funny anecdotes about being on set. She also showed us some photographs taken on different film sets. I particularly liked the picture of a massive sink in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

Kate was very open and didn’t judge anyone’s questions, creating a warm open atmosphere that was comfortable for everyone. 

She talked enthusiastically about her new series Mare of Easttown, set in Pennsylvania, where she plays a grieving detective. She spoke about the intensity of the role and gave us valuable acting tips for filming out of chronological order, which is necessary to avoid time wastage. 

We would really like to thank her for the precious time she gave to us, and we hope that she comes again soon.

Kit Mayhook-Walker, 6.1

To assist 6.2 student August Janklow with his student led adaptation of Sam Shepherd’s True West, Kate Winslet kindly agreed to come in to give the cast a workshop on dialect. The two-hour workshop focused on everything from pronunciation, articulation and how accent informs character. She gave each member of the cast a dialect pronunciation sheet which actors use to better understand the sounds common in specific regional accents, southern Californian being the one in question. she also sat in on a scene reading and offered her advice and opinions on vocal characterisation and specific things for each actor to focus on and remember while acting. The workshop was extremely helpful and useful in the development of the play and we are extremely grateful she took the time to come in and assist all involved.

Zeb Murphy, Block 3

I attended a workshop given by Ben Press, an actor who studied in New York. He spoke to us about the Meisner technique. It is an acting method developed by Sanford Meisner, under the influence of Stanislavski, Lee Strasburg and Stella Adler. 

The first activity Ben introduced to us was the ‘Repetition Game’, as he called it. Two people had to sit face-to-face, side-to-side, or back-to-back. Then we had to simply follow three instructions; Don’t say anything until something causes you to speak, Don’t try to be interesting, The other person is the most important being in the entire world.

The general idea of the game was quite simple. Whatever the other one says about you, you just repeat but change it to ‘I’ instead of ‘You’. For example, this is a possible round:

Person 1: “You are looking at my feet”

Person 2: “I am looking at your feet”

And so on…

What is noticeable, is that even though we are trying not to act, the tone in which the phrase is said will continually change, and the partner must always react to how you said the phrase. It was incredible and hilarious to watch. It was mind blowing that this simple activity, of not even trying to act, was more enjoyable to watch than half the acting scenes I have seen in theatre.

Ben then made the exercise even more challenging by requesting that one member of the pair, had to be attempting a near impossible task, such as stacking three golf balls on top of one another. The person assigned the task began their challenge, whilst the other person had to walk into the room and do as follows:

·      Walk into the room as if it was the most important thing to do

·      Say nothing

·      Observe what is occurring in the room

·      Still say absolutely nothing

·      Only speak when something in the room causes you to speak.  

The Repetition Game would continue with the same earlier rules. This time, when the moment felt right, you were allowed to break the repeated phrase and change it to something else you needed to express. It was incredible to both watch and perform this challenging activity.

Overall, the workshop taught me that not trying to be interesting when acting can bizarrely be the most interesting thing to do. Good acting is about the way you say something rather than what you say, noticing and reacting is just as important as acting out your rehearsed part. I absolutely adored this workshop and I hope Ben will return to Bedales for another lesson”.

Preparing for expedition

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Last weekend we were joined by Isaac Walker and his team from outdoor education provider Ridgeline Adventures, who ran a successful Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) training weekend in the sunshine for Bedales students undertaking their Bronze Award.
 
On Saturday, students took part in a range of team building activities at the Sam Banks Pavilion. Gordon Dale, Clive Burch, Paul Beauchamp and I were there to see Ridgeline lead the various sections, which saw the students put up tents in a fairly strong breeze, cooked lunch on Trangias, washed up (a skill that always needs perfecting!), discussed first aid scenarios, learnt to tie slings, planned the routes they will use on their Bronze qualifying weekend in three weeks’ time and learnt how to read maps of the local Hampshire countryside.
 
On Sunday, the students headed out for a walk in Steep Nature Reserve in five groups of five or six. An opportunity to explore the school’s picturesque surroundings (“I didn’t expect it to be so pretty,” were one student’s words; another said it was simply “stunning”), the day was also insightful. Students quickly learnt the importance of rucksacks rather than shoulder bags, and they stopped en route to explore first aid scenarios and navigate carefully. Group 4 particularly enjoyed meeting Magnus’ dogs on the Hangers!
 
The Block 3 students who took part in the weekend were attentive and enthusiastic throughout, and there were many memorable moments: Otto Scarlett’s delicious, and enormously popular pancakes; Dominic Rowell looking a little like a mummy as he wandered around covered in bandages after a fun first aid session; and Tilly Wall spontaneously commenting that their group leader from Ridgeline Adventures, Neil, was incredible and thanking him for a great day’s walk.
 
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend a success and I look forward to accompanying the students on an expedition very soon.

Getting creative for DofE Award

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Despite the challenges they have faced due to COVID related restrictions, Bedalians have continued to impress with their efforts in completing the various sections of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award.
 
For the Volunteering section of the Bronze Award, Block 3 student Florence Pohlschmidt helped out at her mother’s art school in London, tidying and reorganising the studio sculpture, etching and drawing rooms. Florence also volunteered at her former primary school, Heathbrook, in their wildlife garden, clearing, cleaning and reorganising the school’s greenhouse.
 
Inspired by a Wandsworth primary school who contacted her mother’s art school about the possibility of its students painting a rainbow mural to raise the pupils’ spirits after lockdown, Florence took the initiative to ask Heathbrook’s headteacher, Mr Ben Roberts, if she could continue to volunteer at the school by painting a large mural.
 
After Heathbrook gave her permission to paint a mural on the wall of an area known as ‘The Shed’, Florence decided – with the support of her art teacher – to produce a rainbow design in a nod to keyworkers, based on the work of artists Wassily Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay.

The mural itself covers four 2.5 x 2.5 metre wall panels, which were prepared with two primers and a light blue base colour, before Florence scaled up her drawing and cut out templates for each section, drawing it on the wall in charcoal ready for painting. The process was supported by volunteers from Longbrook’s PTA.
 
Florence said: “I was so pleased to be able to offer to do this as part of my DofE Award, as it was also a way I could say thank you for everything my primary school has done for me. The final mural looks fantastic and I learnt so much from the project.”

Filmmaking, comic strip designing, podcast recording and lecturing – English students embrace online learning

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

As teachers, we’re very aware of the problems associated with screen-time and have been looking for ways to have students present their ideas that don’t involve toiling in the blue light of their laptops. So, over the last few weeks of online learning, Bedales students have had lots of opportunities to present their work in all sorts of ways. Here are a few of the things students have been doing with the English department.

In Block 3, students have been producing their book reviews as short films, some of which you can see here.

The Block 4 English Language students have been studying a variety of 19th century fiction genres and learning about what has made novels so successful. As part of this, many of them have been asked to make comic strips or Gothic films as a way to understand just why isolated castles, terrible weather and mysterious strangers have become such integral parts of Gothic literature. You may remember this is something we did with last year’s Block 4s in the summer term so maybe we have the makings of a yearly film festival at Bedales! See some great examples from Julia’s class here.

6.1 English Literature students are currently studying A Streetcar Named Desire and have been given a choice of performance tasks. We have some students writing re-creative scenes, re-imagining Blanche, Stanley and Stella in different times and places; some aim to learn and perform a key speech of one of the main characters with costume and full dramatic effects; others are working on mini-lectures about themes and ideas in the play such as how music is integral to an audience’s experience of the play in the theatre. 

Block 5 and 6.2 students have been preparing for internal assessments but they have still been able to get away from their screens to produce useful revision materials for each other. Block 5 have produced informative documentaries about something they know well such as climate change or chicken-keeping in order to practise the skills they need for paper 2 of their GCSE English Language exam.

Meanwhile, 6.2 English Literature students have been busiest of all, making lectures about ‘Othello’ either as audio files or filming themselves (in Jago’s case, filming his hands making meticulous notes!) 

The pièce de résistance, though, will doubtless be the now traditional Eve of St Agnes Experience which this year has had to undergo some changes. Unfortunately, we can’t recreate the midnight feast enjoyed by the poem’s characters Madeline and Porphyro in the same way as in previous years, but can still wish ourselves into their world with photos re-creating key scenes and poetry workshops writing verses we think Keats would have included if he could! Look out for more on this from Julia in next week’s Bulletin.