Christmas Poetry competition

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

I’m delighted to be able to open up this competition to anyone in the Bedales community. I’ve already launched it with students but I’m sure there are parents, teachers and Old Bedalians who would love to try writing on this subject. The winning poem or poems will be used as readings in the school carol service this year.

During our carol service we use a mixture of Biblical and secular readings to help reflect on the ideas raised by the Christmas story. As we are a non-denominational school, welcoming students of all faiths and none, we try to have inclusive readings which address the themes in a way that is accessible to all. We have used poetry by poets such as Levertov, Yeats, Rossetti, Bridges and Betjeman in the past, as well as poems written by Bedales English teachers.

It would be wonderful to include work by others in the Bedales community and so we invite you to send your own poetry or short-form prose to me, Lucy McIlwraith, at lmcilwraith@bedales.org.uk.

Some ideas to help inspire you:

You can read the Biblical readings here and write something with parallel themes or a modern version. 

You might like to write a meditation about the themes of Christmas in general. 

You might like to focus on one of the following themes: The prophecies: You might like to write about a future we would like to look forward to. You might like to write about a vision of utopia or something our world community should work towards. Hope for the future.

  1. The annunciation: Many parents find this a fruitful subject to write about – the hope, joy, expectancy and uncertainty of a new child. You can read my version of this here. You might like to write from a different point of view.
  2. The birth of Jesus: You might like to re-tell the Bible story or write about the birth of a child of less divine origins. You might like to write about the birth of an idea or new way of seeing the world.
  3. The shepherds and the kings hearing the good news: A more modern version of this might be based on the idea of publicising a great idea or sharing a wonderful piece of news with people from all backgrounds.

I hope to have the readings for this year’s service finalised at the end of November, so please send any entries for the competition before 30 November. However, if you find that you are still crafting an exquisite piece of poetry after that point, do send it once it’s ready and I can consider using it for next year’s service!

If you’d like some poetic inspiration, do book to see Old Bedalian Esme Allman on 25 November in the Olivier Theatre in Bedales – tickets are available here.

You might also like to book tickets for the Carol Service on 13 December as the church is small and tickets sell out fast! Book tickets here.

Bedales Greenpower team compete at Dunsfold

By Alex McNaughton, Head of Faculty: Art & Design

After competing in their first race at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in May, the Bedales Greenpower team took to the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold on 18 September for their second outing. Here, students Elliot Cundy and Lolo Gaio reflect on the experience, which has earned the team a wild card entry to the International Finals at Goodwood on Sunday 9 October. The team are now furiously tweaking and improving the car ready for the season finale and we are looking forward to another full and enjoyable day at Goodwood. 

Elliot Cundy, Block 4

The Bedales Greenpower team attended their second race of the year at the iconic Top Gear test track at Dunsfold. Since the last race, the team had upgraded the car with a brand new cooling system and reworked steering. Due to a recent wave of illness as well as a clash of commitments, we only had two people available to drive – me and Lolo – between whom we divided three hours of racing time.

After our car had passed the all-important scrutineering, we were allowed out on the track for the first time to practice. Unfortunately, shortly into the session, another team’s car had rolled at the first corner, causing the deployment of an ambulance and halting the practice session for 20 minutes. Once all was clear, we started to learn the line of the track, putting down consistent, gradually improving lap times whilst learning the limits of our car. The first race was fast approaching, so after a swift battery change, we lined up on the grid for the first real test of our skill and car.

With 57 cars on the track, it was certainly a fight for space. I was driving the first stint, and was quickly learning that dealing with other people intruding onto my line would be a problem. Proceeding around the final corner, I was pushed into a cone by another car on my outside, forcing me to pit early to check for damage before letting Lolo hop in and take over. By the end of the first race, our battery was beginning to drain, leading us to place 23rd overall and achieving a top speed of 25mph. 

Lolo Gaio, Block 4

Before the second race, my Dad realised that the nuts holding the wheel to the car were loose on both sides, which was causing the wheels to scrape against the car and make an unpleasant sound when turning. After fixing that, we changed the back wheels for the front wheels; the front wheels were larger than the back, which meant when swapped, the front wheels wouldn’t scrape against the car. Having a larger wheel on the motor also resulted in a longer gear ratio and therefore a slightly higher top speed of 26mph. 

We started the race in 24th place, and finished in 11th, having overtaken 13 cars in the first lap! Our car was running well, and it felt super fast. At the end of my first stint, we were in 8th position and after the pit stop, we were in 11th. Elliot had a longer, 40-minute stint to save on a pit stop against the rest, which got us up to fifth position!

Nothing eventful happened during the race until the lap that Elliot was due to come into the pits, when there was a red flag. Two cars crashed one corner behind him and the race stopped, with Elliot right behind the person holding the red flag. One car managed to get into the pits just before the red flag, so he got a free pit stop. As we were speaking to the race director Vaughan Clarke, he told us an impressive fact – there had only been one broken bone in all 22 years of racing. With the ambulance out, we were relieved to hear that neither driver was injured and the race could resume after 30 minutes. Elliot immediately drove into the pits, and then I was out… with a dying battery. The car was going much slower than when I started and we lost the lead we had gained.

In the end, we finished 17th (10th in our class), which was not too bad overall. The race was an incredible experience, and I’m so glad we did it. Next time, we’ll add wheel covers and make the car more aerodynamic, and hopefully we’ll be able to make it a full race without the battery dying on us. 

Recycling and repurposing

By Andy Cheese, Teacher of Art

Discarded silk has been given a new lease of life by pupils at Bedales and Bedales Prep, Dunhurst this year. Off-cuts of silk from premium homeware designer Porta Romana have been recycled and used in pupils’ fashion creations, including garments created by A Level Fashion & Textiles students at Bedales Senior (like this bomber jacket by Gala Pearson) and Block 2 (Year 8) pupils at Dunhurst. The silk, which would otherwise be thrown away, is rescued from Porta Romana by my wife Sian, who has worked for the Farnham-based company for four years. 

See photos of the garments created with the silk below.

Bedales Senior

Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

Celebrating the Bedales community

On Thursday, students and staff came together for Garrett Day, our Summer term community day named after Amy Garrett Badley, one of the key figures in the founding of the school. Amy was a suffragist and the cousin of Millicent Garrett Fawcett and was, we believe, instrumental in ensuring the school was co-educational when almost no other public schools were. United by the theme of a freedom to learn, we created a day of learning away from conventional classroom structures, giving everyone the opportunity to discover and create something new and to enjoy the freedom and liberty we all have to learn in our school.

Activities included writing and recording (suitably edgy) protest music (and accompanying music videos, which you can watch here), building a Blooklet, creating art with chemical indicators, exploring historical events in poetry, investigating and designing an individual fitness programme, animating Newton’s Three Laws, producing art inspired by the outdoors and even creating a new language.

Students in Kirsten McLintock’s group was joined by visiting author Winnie Mi Li, who came to discuss gender-based violence and feminist activism, in honour of Amy Garrett Badley herself. Students were fascinated by Winnie’s own story which can be viewed in her TED talk here, whilst learning how to create characters and write a collective poem. Winnie’s new book, Complicit, is published this week.

The day culminated in an exhibition in the Library, coordinated by Head of Design Alex McNaughton, which showcased everyone’s creative efforts. The exhibition will also be available to view on Parents’ Day to allow parents to share in the students’ achievements. Thank you to everyone who made the day a success.

See more photos from the day below.

Eco-critical approaches to literature

By Jemima Corcoran, 6.1

On Tuesday evening, a group of pupils ranging from Block 3 to Sixth Form had the opportunity to discuss eco-critical approaches to reading literature with Will Goldsmith as part of the 3i programme. Will was kind enough to host the chat at his house, giving an intimate atmosphere similar to what we might expect later in life at university tutorials. Having shared a tasty variety of Domino’s pizzas and wedges, we made ourselves comfortable on the sofas in Will’s living room – the walls lined with an impressive array of books and the lit fireplace keeping us warm – and began our discussion, with The Lost Words: Spell Sounds adding to the eco-centric ambiance of the evening.

Taking us right through from the idyllic Garden of Eden described in the Bible to Wordsworth’s romantic view of London in Composed Upon Westminster Bridge to Ursula Le Guin’s post-apocalyptic wasteland explored in The World for World is Forest. I was particularly impressed by the diversity of the literary extracts Will had selected, as we were able to hold an eco-critical lens up to poetry and prose written throughout time from a wide range of different ethnic, gender and sexuality-based frames of reference. Moreover, looking at how ecosystems and the natural world are presented and conveyed in different pieces of literature, and how this has evolved throughout time, provided me with a fascinating insight into an aspect I had never properly considered while reading.

Most interesting to me, however, was the point of our discussion where Will spoke to us about ecofeminist criticism, a way of reading natural imagery where aspects of the wilderness are given stereotypically feminine traits and categorised into a traditional gender binary system, with Armitage’s Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass (one of the poems in our A Level anthology) immediately springing to mind when this topic arose.

Overall, it was a real pleasure to be able to converse in such close proximity post-COVID – especially with pupils from other year groups who I would not usually have the opportunity to exchange intellectual thoughts with – and I left Will’s house with a greater appreciation for the world around me and a desire to look back with an eco-critical eye at some of my favourite pieces of literature. A huge thank you to Will for hosting, my peers for attending and contributing to such a fascinating discussion, and to Jess Warren for organising the 3i events.

Choral collaboration at Somerville College Oxford

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

Last Saturday 23 singers from the chamber choir joined the choir of Somerville College Oxford to sing choral contemplation. Somerville College is a little different from other Oxbridge colleges as although they have a chapel, they are non-denominational, which means the services are not religious but are a bit like the Jaws we have at Bedales. In fact, there are many similarities between our two communities and we share many of the same values, which meant that we felt quite at home when we arrived.

The choirs sang a challenging programme of music depicting the passing of the hours throughout the day, from the darkness before the dawn to daybreak, noon and evening. Block 5 student Joel Edgeworth started the service with a piano solo based on the jazz standard Stella by Starlight, and then the combined choirs sang Sure on this Shining Night by the American composer Morten Lauridsen, O Radiant Dawn by the Scottish composer James MacMillan, Silent Noon (with a stunning solo by Florence Pohlschmidt) by Vaughan Williams, My Spirit Sang all Day by Old Bedalian parent Gerald Finzi, before finishing with Evening Hymn by the Victorian composer Henry Balfour-Gardiner.

The music was interspersed with poetry readings of works by Shakespeare, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Jenny Joseph, Eleanor Wilner and Emily Dickinson, and Joel and Block 4 student Siena Marcos Bancroft Cooke performed these with confidence. Will Goldsmith also gave a reading and sang with choirs alongside Natalie and Doug, and many thanks to Matilda McMorrow for accompanying us on the trip.

It was inspiring to sing with the Somerville undergraduates and we had a chance to talk to them over coffee and find out a bit more about college life. For all those thinking about choosing a university, it was good to reflect on how a community supports its students and the intimate confines of Somerville College reminded us of the supportive community we have here at Bedales.

Bedales Greenpower team competes at prestigious Goodwood Motor Circuit

By Alex McNaughton, Head of Design

For the last eight months a team of approximately 20 students from Block 3 to 6.1 have been building and electric race car in the Design workshop. We have been doing this with the aim of competing in the national Greenpower competition. It would not have been possible to even start this undertaking without the very generous granting of funds by the Bedales Parents’ Association (BPA) nearly a year ago.

The Greenpower Educational Trust organise this annual competition each year with the aim of engaging young people about science and engineering by challenging them to design, build and race an electric race car which the students drive themselves.

It was with great excitement, and trepidation, that 12 students from Block 3, Block 5 and 6.1 accompanied by three staff entered our first ever event last Sunday (8 May) at one of the spiritual homes of motorsport in the UK – the glorious Goodwood Motor Circuit. It was a fantastic day in which we experienced the full range of emotions associated with any form of motorsport.

The day started off well with a few practice laps to fine tune the car and clock up some all-important driver experience. Unfortunately however our hopes seemed dashed moments into the first actual race of the day. The car suffered a power failure resulting in only about half our power making to the wheels. Our drivers persevered for a few laps until we decided to pit the car and remedy the issue. After nearly two and half hours of trouble shooting, maintenance and stress we managed to get the car back up and running. We were very fortunate that a couple of Greenpower volunteers and one of our competition, in the spirit of our shared endeavour, provided us with some assistance. Many many thanks to those who helped us in our hours of need. Frustratingly no one could accurately diagnose the mystery gremlin so we prepared the car as best we could and entered the second round.

Thankfully the period of doubt and anxiety was swiftly replaced by heart racing joy, elation and exuberance as the car and drivers performed fantastically well in the second round. Our car was fixed, it leapt to life as it should and sped away clocking up an above average 28 miles of racing in the afternoon. The relief was wiped from every face – we had succeeded and were competitively racing! It was an awesome feeling to be able to share in this success and reap the rewards of our many hours of hard work in building our first race car.

It was a long but utterly worthwhile day spent in the wonderful sunshine at Goodwood culminating in an incredibly successful first outing for the car and team. I am so incredibly proud of all who helped build the car, those who raced it and to all those who accompanied and supported us on the day.

I would like to say an enormous and heartfelt thank you to the BPA on behalf of the entire team for the opportunity to get this far and for the many races ahead. We are already planning ways to improve and prepare the car for our next race in September at Dunsfold.

Happy motoring to you all…

Volunteering as a Parish Councillor

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

I don’t really know a lot about politics and I have never expressed an interest in it, but last summer I was delighted to be elected onto Steep Parish Council. It’s not the start of a new career – or a midlife crisis – but a way of getting to know the community I have lived in for eight years, and trying to help it in some small way.

Most people have heard about the famous ‘Jackie Weaver’ moment during a lockdown council meeting (if you haven’t, YouTube it). We haven’t had anything quite so dramatic, but sometimes it’s not far off! What I have seen though has been really humbling. I’m in awe of the time and effort that my fellow councillors put into their roles. It is a voluntary role and we officially meet once a month, but it is all the work that goes on between meetings that I’m not sure many people are aware of. I’m limited in what I can do, and volunteer for only one area, which is encouraging the young people in the community to be seen, and to take an active role in it.

On Tuesday 8 March I spent the morning with five students from Bedales, pressure washing the play equipment on the common. They had a great time removing the dirt that had built up over the years and the equipment is now ready for a coat of wood preserver, which we hope to do in the Summer Term. Pressure washing the swing set is next on our to-do list.

On Thursday 24 March we were back on the common for the morning with four different groups of students. With the help of my colleagues Stu Barilli and Katie McBride, we planted 34 trees complete with tree guards and supporting stakes. This was funded with a grant from East Hampshire District Council, with the aim of replanting the area which has suffered from ash dieback.

Our students got a great deal from it; they connected with something outside Bedales, they contributed something to their community, and learnt a bit about tree planting along the way.

New servery and salad bar

The new servery

By Matt Potts, Head of Catering

On Friday 25 March, as the Block 3 parents’ evening was underway in the Quad, the catering team were busy on the other side of the wall, stripping out the kitchen and servery ready for the workforce to arrive the following morning and the refurbishment to begin. The existing servery and salad bar had served its purpose for many years, but the time had come to renovate the facilities and ease the flow for hungry students during busy lunchtimes.
 
It was an interesting but nerve-racking three weeks watching the progress. In its bare state, the team uncovered some wonderful hidden features that are now proudly on display. Emotions ran high, worrying if it would be completed on time – but there was no need. On Good Friday, work was complete, ready for the start of the Summer Term. I’m sure you will all agree that it is a wonderful transformation, and I look forward to seeing you here very soon. A huge thank you to all involved in this project.

The servery prior to renovation
The new salad bar
The salad bar prior to renovation

John Badley Foundation

By Mark Hanson, Old Bedalian (1977-84) and John Badley Foundation Chair of Trustees

This year the John Badley Foundation (JBF) has funded full bursaries for seven students and is planning to welcome five new scholars to the school in September 2022. That is only possible because of the continued generosity of Bedales parents, OBs and friends of the school. As I reflect on the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months – including breaking through the £1 million mark for the first time – the overwhelming sense is one of gratitude to those who have recognised the importance of the work of JBF even amid the never-ending turmoil of the global pandemic and the personal challenges that have gone with that.

As Omicron rages like a forest fire across the UK, and we batten down the hatches yet again, we are ever more conscious of the elements of life that matter most; our health, family, community, freedom, fresh air and the outdoors. Most of us have had enough of ‘virtual’ life. As I wandered around Bedales in the autumn, taking in the beautiful buildings, open natural spaces and vibrant community, it reinforced my own sense of the extraordinary opportunity JBF gives to young people who may be in challenging circumstances and for whom a Bedales education may be genuinely life changing. A place at Dunhurst or Bedales represents so much more than an education; security, space, the encouragement and freedom to speak, the aspiration and support to succeed.

With community at the centre of our thinking, we’ve brought in four new trustees to bring JBF even closer to everyday life at school. Past and present parents Chris Campbell, Victoria Bonham Carter and Anna Land are already making a big difference and we also welcome Esme Allman (2013-15), an early JBF scholar who sets an inspiring example and is working with the admissions team to make the assessment and onboarding process for new scholars a brilliant one. We are also hoping to build stronger relationships with schools locally to identify great candidates closer to home.

Despite the restrictions, we’ve had some wonderful JBF events this year including a talk with Gyles Brandreth (1961-66) and there are more planned during 2022. One of those will be at the Special Forces Club and if he is feeling up to it, Old Bedalian and 22 SAS Original Mike Sadler (1933-37) will be in attendance. Mike speaks so fondly of his time at Bedales in the 1930s and it’s fair to say that his life path was never a conventional one! That’s one of the great things about Bedales; the encouragement to follow your passion with energy, whatever direction that might take you in.

Although we’ve made wonderful progress over the last decade, JBF is still in the foothills of the impact we can make. And we really need your support to make that happen. Please do consider setting up a regular gift to the JBF by clicking here. If just 50 of us donate £25 a month (+ gift aid), with match-funding from Bedales that will give one young person the opportunity to change their life circumstances. The need in our society has never been greater.