“Not all men”

By Kirsten McLintock, Head of Wellbeing & PSHE

As Head of Wellbeing I’ve watched and listened with interest to our students’ responses in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard’s killing. I’m so very proud of Block 5 student Bella Cutts who organised the wearing of red for the day to highlight sexual violence experienced by women. Savvy use of social media meant Bella was able to spread the action and schools such as Marlborough, Beneden and Teddies took up the red wearing baton later in the week. Contributions to an art exhibition in the Quad this week were moving, articulate, harrowing and rightly laced with fury. The women of Bedales are formidable.

The voices of our boys and men are vital to social change within the Bedales community and society. It is these voices we now need to advocate, intervene and upstand in support of women. The Wellbeing curriculum challenges the normative binary dialogue surrounding consent, rape culture, pornification and sexism.

The need to do more to reduce violence against women is now widely agreed. But for progress to be made, one of the central issues has to be about men, male attitudes and actions, and what men need to do.

What should men do in these circumstances? “Man’s silence around issues of sexist language and behaviours is of concern,” says Graham Goulden, former policeman and trainer in violence prevention. “Whilst many men as individuals possess healthy views of women, their views on what their friends think is often skewed. Men often misperceive that friends support sexist views which leads to them either joining in or saying nothing. This leads to a perfect storm of non-abusive men doing nothing, and abusive men acting with impunity.”

One fundamental is that men – whether they think of themselves as liberal, progressive or enlightened – need to stop being defensive and making excuses. Educator, filmmaker and author Jackson Katz has worked on gender-based violence and wider inequalities and stresses that men (as well as women) saying “not all men” in debates on male violence are not being constructive. “I keep hearing people saying: ‘Not all men!’ To which I would say: if you have the impulse to say ‘not all men’, don’t. It’s silly, and it’s not a good look.”

This is not just about semantics: “Because, yes, although men are more likely to die violently than women, and yes, not all men are violent, there’s no doubt that the overwhelming majority of violence that happens between the genders happens by men against women. And the vast majority of violence that men suffer is at the hands of other men.”

Men have to recognise and call out sexism in other men. This became – in the work of Katz – known as the ‘bystander principle’, whereby men take responsibility and challenge the problem behaviour of other men; not leaving it to women or leaving it in silence, thinking it can always be passed off as somebody else’s problem.

Men need to think about how to challenge other men, whether it is the jokes that nearly everyone laughs at, and what is called ‘locker room banter’. The first thing that individuals can do is to stop separating the likes of rape and ‘sexist banter’, states Katz. “They are connected and addressing the banter will help reduce the violence we read about in the media. Abusive men often think their attitudes are supported. That needs to change. Men should speak to women in their lives.”

There has to be an understanding that male entitlement and resentment towards women are two sides of the same thing, and that hate, sexism and misogyny are learned behaviour. In the words of Katz, these are reinforced and reproduced by “media culture, sports culture, peer culture and porn culture” until it becomes mainstream and part of the norm of what it is to be a man.

Violence and problematic male behaviour is not just about the individual, but about societal norms and hence it is the responsibility of all of us, and in particular, all men. Silence is not an option but is in reality collusion, it is complicit consent. Women and men need men to have the courage to speak up, to listen to women, and to challenge other men.

Dr Jackson Katz discusses why all men need to be part of ending violence against women, and what they can do to help, listen to the podcast here.

Packed term of engaging Drama workshops

By Eve Allin, Drama Tutor

This half term the Drama department have hosted at least one drama workshop every week for all students at Bedales. Even though these workshops have all taken place online, it has been a brilliant way for students to connect to professional artists working in theatre.

We had a special workshop from Emergency Chorus, an emerging experimental theatre company, with Bohunt Drama students to kick off the term: 

The workshop with Emergency Chorus, makers of Landscape (1989), was interesting and the creators were insightful and kind. They gave us a presentation about their process and artistic intentions for the play whilst remaining inclusive and allowing us to ask some questions or ask us what we remembered about their show. I said that I liked the musical choices throughout and the atmospheric effects they all had that enhanced my pleasurable viewing experience.” — Gus McQuillan 

“I was inspired by the way their play was so contextually and historically driven. Specifically, how they focused on Capitalism in such a powerful way whilst still balancing this quite informative aspect with strong visual and aesthetical moments.” — Arthur Richardson 

Old Bedalian Amy Blakelock gave us a fascinating workshop centered around her Offie nominated play ‘Easy’: 

“From learning about story-archs and other writing techniques to playing a guessing game of which extract appeared in her final one-woman show, Amy’s playwriting workshop was hugely thought out, informative and really fun.” — Nay Murphy 

And OBs Hebe Bartlett and Roly Botha gave us a masterclass on auditioning and getting an agent: 

“I was lucky enough to participate in a brilliant workshop led by Hebe and Roly. They talked about the acting industry, how they both individually got into it and gave us tips on auditions and agents! It was very helpful and I will carry the information they gave me with me in the future.” — Jessica Asamoa 

Actor and workshop leader Benjamin Press joined us for a workshop centered on the Meisner method – a well renowned and unique technique to approach acting, Ben was brilliant at working with students over Teams: 

“Even though we were online, the Meisner workshop was ace. Keeping the energy sharp had a whole new challenge when not being face-to-face, which I found really useful, and it was brilliant to have an expert like Ben come in to help us along the way, especially since we’ve been studying naturalism this term. I had a lot of fun.” — Jamie Thorogood 

We had a brilliant visit from three Central School of Speech and Drama students, who are running workshops around how to create open spaces for women and girls: 

“The CSSD Research workshop was such an amazing experience for me. It made me reflect on my female friendships and solidify my relationships with my girlfriends, not to mention that it was so much fun and such a compassionate, lovely environment. Sophia, Safura and Naomi were so kind and made the workshop so friendly; it was one of the best workshops I have done.” — Elena Belisario 

“As a Drama A Level student I have learnt so much from the CSSD Research workshop. I have learnt how to create a creative space when devising in a group and how to produce a meaningful and powerful piece of theatre. Sophia, Safura and Naomi were very approachable and enthusiastic when answering questions, especially when I asked how I could transfer the activities we did, into my drama lesson. Overall, I believe that this was a very important workshop as I learnt so much from the way I work and made me feel very connected to my inner feminist.” — Aryana Taheri-Murphy 

For our final workshop on Wednesday this week Anita Pollinger-Jones gave students an insight into subtext in performance in her bespoke acting workshop using Hamlet and Pygmalion. We are delighted that so many students took part in our workshops this term, and we will be continuing these sessions every Wednesday in the Summer Term. 

EPQ presentations go digital

By Jo Mayhook-Walker, Head of EAL and Extended Projects Coordinator

COVID has encouraged a huge reliance on technology both in school and in the wider world. Last Wednesday afternoon saw a small and select audience settle down in front of their computers to form the audience for two Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) presentations given over Teams by Isabella Montero and Eloise Cooper, both 6.2 students.

As the new Extended Projects Coordinator, I felt incredibly privileged to be part of the audience.  Previously, projects have been presented in the Library, giving students, staff and parents an opportunity to wander from stand to stand, dipping in and out of a smorgasbord of projects and being able to question each student about the inspiration behind their projects, the challenges they encountered and what they had learnt. The current situation, however, has meant that we have had to rethink. 

All the way from Barcelona, Isabella (pictured above in last year’s Rock Show) presented her project, her EP entitled A White Picket Dream. She gave us an insight into her musical inspirations and how her experience of living in different parts of the USA, as well as being an American living and being schooled outside the US, has coloured her musical journey. 

In contrast, Eloise, from her dorm in 6.2, presented her project: Is there a Difference between a Cult and a Religion? She explained why this was a topic that had appealed to her, presented the issue of bias when conducting her research and explored how her own personal relationship to religion had coloured her choice of topic and approach.

Both presentations were insightful, confidently given and complimentary to each other.  We, as the audience, were given a unique opportunity to focus entirely on each individual project with a chance to question the students at the end of their presentation.  Although a very different experience to the Expo of old, the use of this new technology allowed us a more concentrated and intimate glimpse into the story behind the project.

International Women’s Day – more important than ever

By Matilda McMorrow, Librarian

Warning: The following extract contains sensitive information on sexual assault, attack and rape.

Following the killing of Sarah Everard and subsequent events last week, I want to highlight the importance of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month as part of the conversation.

We have an epidemic of femicide in this country. As pointed out in parliament by Jess Phillips MP, in the week after Sarah Everard was first reported missing, a further six women and a little girl were reported as being killed at the hands of men. As Phillips said: “It’s not particularly rare and it’s a fear that women live with. It’s an everyday thing.”

A man kills a woman every three days in this country. This figure increased during the first lockdown.*

The idea that women need to do the work to fix their fear of this has been emphasised in the police and press response to the recent murder of Sarah Everard. We are reminded not to walk the streets alone, not to go out after dark, to be cautious, to be afraid, to obey rules. We mould ourselves to work around the whims of men who might decide to hurt us. We are made to believe that men being dangerous is both an inevitability – the risk will always be there – and also somehow a strange outlier. We’re told the dangerous ones are ‘weirdos’, not like the normal men you know. It’s not normal men’s fault that there are dangerous ones around.

This danger is not inevitable. Men can choose not to be attackers, they can be taught to make better choices, they can intervene when other men display dangerous attitudes. The prevailing attitudes of men’s entitlement to women’s bodies can be counteracted in society. Even prosecuting more men who attack women, so there are consequences for their actions, would be a start.

And the men who attack women are not ‘weirdos’, a separate other group. They are the people we know. In 87% of cases where women are killed by men, they know their attacker (Office for National Statistics, 2020).  In 70% of cases, it happens in the woman’s own home.

Violence against women is frequently in the form of sexual assault or rape. In 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 3.4m women had been victims of sexual assault in their lives. That’s about 54 times the number of men. This included one million who had been raped, or had faced attempted rape. The justice system is failing women on this front. The cases of women being raped by men that get to court are actually decreasing year on year (CPS, 2020). Less than 3% of the rapes reported to the police are prosecuted. The majority of men in positions of power are doing little to improve this. In fact, they often perpetuate the damaging attitudes that lead to attacks.  Our own Prime Minister has been consistently quoted throughout his career objectifying and dehumanising women.

We need International Women’s Day for the reason it was created in 1910: to press for our demands. A whole day dedicated to international discussion of women’s rights, and active campaigning for those rights, which are still being withheld in this country as well as globally. On International Women’s Day in 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak about women’s right to vote in Trafalgar Square. Only a couple of days after International Women’s Day 2021, a group of COVID-masked and distanced women on Clapham Common, who were mourning the dead and speaking about violence against women, were attacked by police. Many were arrested on no legal basis.

When we are reminded of the enormity of the task in front of us, that is when we need to be reminded of our power for change. Women’s achievements are all the more impressive for the crimes against our sex committed daily, in our own homes.

Of course we want to celebrate women’s achievements every single day, but on International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month let’s make it tenfold. We are reminded of the fight that lies ahead, so let’s be reminded we have the power to win. 
 
* If you’re wondering, it is in stark contrast to the numbers of men that women kill. Women don’t tend to kill anyone. 9/10 killers are men (Femicide Census 2021).

Here comes the Spring

By Feline Charpentier, 6.2 Houseparent and Teacher of Outdoor Work

Ostara, or the spring equinox, falls this Saturday, and marks the first point of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the moment when the sun crosses the equator line, and heads north. It is also known as the vernal equinox, ver in latin meaning spring – think verdant, youthful, fresh. Day and night are of equal length, and from then on our days begin to lengthen. All around us nature is coming alive, and there are signs of this life everywhere we look, from the lambs in the fields to the buds on the trees. The daffodils on Emma’s walk are just beginning to show off their glorious egg yolk yellow. The sound of birdsong is hard to miss everywhere in school!

Ostara, from the Germanic goddess Oestre, and the root of the word Oestrogen, the hormone which stimulates ovulation, was how our ancestors marked the spring, and saw the end of winter. It is a time of perfect balance, of finding harmony, between the dark and the light, the inner and outer, between intuition and the rational.

It is a time where embracing male and female energies, regardless of gender, can be full of potential, and give life to new ideas and ways of seeing the world. It is often in the state of harmony, and balance, that true change can occur. It is a time when all those gentle hopes we had at Imbolc might be beginning to come to fruition. When we can truly look forward, not back.

Two of the symbols we still mark this time of year with, the hare and the egg, have their origins at least in part in the ancient festival of Ostara. The goddess Oestre was often depicted as having the head of a hare, a symbol of immortality and rebirth. There are many versions of the story where she changed a bird into a hare to have as her companion. Eggs were thus given and received as gifts, as potent symbols of life and the fertility of the earth. The yolk and the white representing the perfect harmony of life.

Ostara is a wonderful time to literally, and figuratively, plant seeds for the year ahead. Having more time in the day to do all those jobs we wait all winter to begin is so energising, and there is a spring in the step of those you meet on walks. On our sixth form course we have been planning our planting for the year ahead, choosing seeds and imagining the bounty in the autumn.

Spring clean your space, ridding it of the cloak of winter, and face the summer ahead with fresh eyes. Bring buds into your home to see life burst forth, paint eggs, spend the day outdoors enjoying the longer daylight and fresh air. Why not revisit the intentions made at Imbolc, and step forth boldly into the light. Now is the time we may see them bloom. Celebrate the different aspects of your being, the balance that exists, noticing how we all live harmoniously with one another most of the time, even through crisis and hardship. There is so much to look forward to.

Jacob sheep wool blankets available to buy

By Marcella Craven, ODW Tutor Technician

Many of you may have seen the beautiful blankets and shawls sold in the Outdoor Work shop here at Bedales. We currently have large blankets (202cm x 149cm, £200) and medium blankets (142cm x 149cm, £120), as well as two wraps/shawls (£70) and balls of Jacob yarn, double knitting weight, in cream, dark brown and oatmeal (£4 per 50g ball) available to buy. To put in an order, please email outdoorwork@bedales.org.uk.

We thought you might like to know a little more about the work and process that goes into producing these unique items. The blankets and shawls are made from Jacob sheep wool, produced from our rare breed flock which numbers approximately 48 breeding ewes and lambs. Jacob sheep fleece is brilliant for weaving purposes as they produce different colours of wool which allow a natural coloured end product which has not been dyed in anyway.  The staple length of the wool is also excellent which makes it really popular among spinners.

Every year we hire a professional shearer to shear our flock. Shearing day usually takes place in June and is always popular with our students and our sheep, who enjoy getting a haircut once the weather warms up! It takes us around two years before we have enough wool fibre to make it worthwhile sending it to be processed into yarn.

Once shorn from the sheep, the fleeces are rolled and stored ready for our students to help sort the fleeces. They take away any old, matted or ruined wool from the fleece and separate the fleece into colours, white, brown and mixed colour wool. It’s a great way to learn about the qualities of raw wool, it’s many uses and feel the lanolin on their hands. This year we collected 132kg of white wool, 81kg of brown wool and 33kg of mixed colour wool (once spun this will be grey).

The wool is then rammed into large fibre sacks, which are sent to The Natural Fibre Company based in Cornwall.  They scour (wash) the wool and set up their spinning machines so that once spun and oiled the returned product is only the unique wool we have sent to them.

The mill make three products for us, spun yarn to knit with, washed and carded fibre to spin with at school and spun yarn to weave with. Once spun and on a cone, the weaving wool is sent off again.  This time it travels to Wales to the Melin Teifi Wool Mill in Dyfed, Ceredigion.  Here it is handwoven into the blankets, wraps and scarves which you would recognise from the ODW shop.

The effort, care, process and craftsmanship that goes into making these products ensures that the end result is totally air mile free, British made, and 100% Bedalian.

To celebrate lambing season and to mark the end of term, we are offering you the chance to WIN a medium blanket worth £120! Find out how to enter on Bedales’ Instagram page here.

Working together for positive change

By Leila Issa and Charlie Kitchen, 6.1

The following extract contains sensitive information on sexual assault and rape.

Over the past week in the UK there has been widespread reaction throughout society following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah was a 33-year-old marketing executive, who was kidnapped whilst walking home from her friend’s house in Clapham, South London. She was last seen on CCTV footage on 3 March, calling her boyfriend. Her body was found a week later in Kent, 60 miles from where she was last seen. She was kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered.

Sarah’s tragic story has inspired many victims of sexual assault to come forward with their testimonies. One online platform, Everyone’s Invited, has allowed victims from schools across the country to come forward anonymously with their experiences of sexual assault, including one testimony from a former Bedales student.

Everyone’s Invited was founded in June 2020 by a former Wycombe Abbey student, Soma Sara, after sharing her personal experience of rape culture via Instagram. Within a week she received and shared over 300 anonymous responses, reaching over 10,000 people. The website now has more than 4,100 testimonies, including accounts from girls as young as nine. Her website continues to share anonymous testimonies as well as advice for victims, and calls for reform of the education system to include more detail on consent. All information can be found at https://everyonesinvited.uk.

On Monday Bedales students came together as a community to discuss how we can support victims of any sexual assault, and how we can revisit our curriculum to reflect more accurately contemporary issues of widespread sexual violence in society. It was incredible to see so many students turn up who were willing to have an open conversation on an extremely difficult and stigmatised topic. Given that Bedales is an independent school, we have the ability to influence the way our wellbeing lessons and school curriculum work. We can give much more prominence to education about sexual misconduct and the complex issue of consent.

We want to work with Magnus and the staff to help develop the opportunities there are for education around consent and the varying laws on confidentiality followed by the staff who work at the school supporting students (house parents, counsellors, doctors, and teachers). 

On Tuesday many students and staff wore red clothing to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault, an initiative taken up by other schools, and Art students are planning a mixed media exhibition to go in the Quad centred on the theme of sexual assault, which will merge written testimony with representation.

To all survivors of sexual assault: we see you, we hear you, we believe you, and we support you.

Remembering the fallen in Buriton

By Andy Cheese, Teacher of Art

Over the last three years, I have been working with a committee of local residents in Buriton to create a war memorial bench. The community in Buriton has marked the centenary of the First World War in a number of ways since 2014, which is particularly important because per capita the Parish of Buriton sent more men to the Great War than any other district in the Petersfield area. Sadly, research revealed that there were a number of casualties who died during or shortly after World War I who are not named on the village’s War Memorial; the bench project aims to commemorate all those who suffered and were affected by war in the past, present and future.

Public engagement, including a design competition for local schoolchildren and households and a ballot, resulted in an approved design for a permanent feature by way of a curved Portland stone bench positioned into sloping ground behind the existing War Memorial. The back of the bench will depict scenes of wartime activity at home and abroad, and I have designed these. An important milestone in the project has been reached as we have just received the laser-cut brass copies of my design, which you can see below. I am still working on a poppy mosaic to be positioned in front of the bench.

This has been a great community project, funded by local people, and the bench – which looks over to the Buriton pond – will be a fine place for people to sit and reflect on World War I and its impact on the community of Buriton.

Springing back to normal

By Georgie Nugent, Girls’ Houseparent and Teacher of Drama

Spring is here and we are back! Flat is full once more of music, laughter and lots of chatter. We are making up for lost time, but it is a lot to take on board and the students are working hard to take it step-by-step. To go from living within our own little bubbles at home in an established routine that works for each one of us, to being back within the heart of this vibrant community, is a huge gear change for everyone. 

We have worked hard to ensure the houses feel calm and welcoming, a place where there is space to breathe and relax amid busy days and to remember to focus on friendships and inclusion. The message to hand in devices to encourage better bedtime routines seems to have worked very well, with a collective understanding that it is in everyone’s best interests.

This first week back, we have had fun roasting marshmallows over the firepit (thanks to Head of Outdoor Work Andrew Martin for wheeling in barrow loads of logs) and hot chocolates in the flat courtyards, with the idea that reconnecting with our friends is at the core of getting back to normal. We have also been thinking about those members of our community that perhaps have had a difficult lockdown or who are still in lockdown all around the world.

Acting on the School Council’s feedback, the cooked breakfasts have been reinstated and received with glee by many of the students. The flat Charity Committees and Eco Committees are enjoying sharing ideas with each other to make our community and the world a better place. We are also delighted that the barriers within the year groups enforced by COVID restrictions last term have been relaxed and we can work and play in our year groups, united as a community. There is a sense of relief in the air and a feeling that we can dare to look forward and plan for a wonderful summer term.

Turning in ‘Othello’

By David Anson, Head of English

The first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s play Othello was on Hallowmas Day, November 1, 1604. James I had been king for just over 18 months and he had very recently overseen the Treaty of London which concluded 19 years of conflict between England and Spain. It was a time of great change, a time of unification and much longed for peace.

On Wednesday, Bedales English Literature A Level students were joined on Microsoft Teams by fellow Bohunt English Literature students to take part in a short lecture programme organised by myself and Deana Buchan, Head of English at Bohunt. We were joined remotely by Dr Kath Diamond, a Renaissance specialist who lectures at Goldsmith’s College and Queen Mary and Westfield, and who delivered a fascinating lecture on ‘Turning in Othello’.

Amongst other things, Kath’s lecture recognises the significance of this period of political and cultural change in Jacobean London and the bearing it has upon the action and motifs to be found within a play which presents a ‘spiralling vortex of change’. The play opens in the turmoil and business of a bustling Venice, centre of trade and commerce and the seat of much public debate and discussion about the ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire in Cyprus. It narrows to the defeat of the Turkish army before narrowing again to the private matters of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona and then ends with yet a further narrowing to the marital bed; site of Desdemona and Othello’s tragic end and loaded with much dramatic symbolism. The play is a play of change and a play of turmoil that leaves both its contemporary and 21st century audience somewhat unsettled (though for different reasons) and yearning for the kind of peace and order that a king like James, Shakespeare’s patron, ought to bring at the start of his reign.

The students then explored the way the masculine and the feminine may be considered in the play through shorter presentations led by myself and Deana; a useful foundation for further classroom discussion. At a time when we can’t take our students to the theatre or to lecture programmes, this was a superb opportunity for both 6.1 and 6.2 to revisit their study of Othello and it ushers in the start of more exciting joint projects between Bohunt and Bedales that Deana and I hope to be able to realise in face to face events next year.