In Jaw this week, I spoke about the ethics of buying smartphones. Having recently broken my own phone, I described the dilemma I faced when I came to replacing it. I talked about an event I attended here at Bedales a few years ago, where former Head of BBC News James Harding explained that most of the cobalt found in lithium-ion batteries – the rechargeable batteries found in all smartphones – is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where men, women and children endure dangerous and unhealthy conditions to source the element for mobile devices. This essentially means that quite a lot of us carry around with us in our pockets something that is the product of child labour.
All of this had left me wondering how I can work in a school, and care for some people’s children, whilst ignoring the plight of others. That, in turn, got me thinking about an excellent book I’ve read – The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer – which argues that although we can often feel helpless to solve global issues, we actually have a moral obligation to do something, and we should really be thinking of these global problems as our problems. If we wouldn’t think twice about rescuing a child drowning in a pond immediately in front of us, why are we reluctant to do our bit to help children in danger several thousand miles away? For me, it felt disingenuous to live a life based around caring for children, whilst ignoring other children, just because they’re far away.
I also touched upon other important issues to consider, such as the sustainability of resources used to produce smartphones, and widespread concerns about the working conditions and pay of those producing them. Use of smartphones has risen exponentially over the last few years, and as they become a staple of everyday life and use continues to rise, the ethical impact of what we do with smartphones will become more significant.
I asked students to consider the ethical weight of their smart phone. What are they carrying in their pocket? What is the moral dilemma they should face when they think about replacing their smartphone? What can they do? Addressing the advantages and disadvantages of each, I presented a range of options, from keeping a particular handset for longer than the original contract or buying a reconditioned, second-hand phone, to buying a phone from an ethical brand, such as Freephone or Teracube, who work to ensure fairer supply chains, use recycled materials, and pay fair wages.
We are a long way from a perfect solution, but I hope my talk has encouraged students to start thinking about these issues and, when they next come to replace their smartphone, consider the ethical weight of the phone they choose. As for me? For Christmas, I’m going to ask for my iPhone to be repaired.
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.
Congratulations to this year’s Academic Dons, who were announced last week.
Dons are student leaders, associated with academic departments and other important areas of the school, such as the Library and Theatre. As student spokespeople for a department, Dons represent the student body’s views to the relevant Head of Department, as well as offer subject specific help and advice to younger students at the senior school.
It is a genuine delight for us to see so many students showing such energy and enthusiasm for the different areas of school life, and we thank them in advance for the work they will do with teachers in supporting the academic life of the school.
The full list of this year’s Dons is as follows:
Art – Georgie De Boulay
Biology – Nina Jones
Business Studies – Maria Timokhina
Chemistry – Isabella McGrath
Classics – Annie Lawes
Dance – Mathilda Douglas
Design (Product) – Oskar De Aragues
Digital Game Design/Maths – Raef McNaughten
Drama – Jessica Asamoa
Economics – Harry Hornsby
English – Maya Muller
Fashion Design – Phoebs Esdaile
French – Alisia Leach
Geography – Fleur Donovan
Global Awareness – Sacha Weisz Brassay
History – Taragh Melwani
Library – Anton Lucas
Maths – Annabelle Snell
Music – Tiger Braun-White
Music (Contemporary) – Monty Bland
Outdoor Work – Lila Levingston
Photography – Poppy Kingsley-Pallant
Physics – Hux Green
Politics – Thomas Figgins
Philosophy, Religion and Ethics – Amos Wollen
Psychology – Lily Brough
Round Square – Amelia Smith, Ben Bradberry, Nina Solovieva
Spanish – Anna Sukhikh
Sport – Shanklin MacKillop-Hall
Theatre (Crew and Wardrobe) – Caelan Edward and Aria Taheri Murphy
Over the summer holidays, I had the privilege of attending the John Locke Institute Summer School at Balliol College, Oxford, to study an academic course in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Competition for a place on the summer schools is intense, and to be considered for a place, we had to write a resumé and attend an interview (via Zoom, of course), where we were asked to articulate our most controversial idea and defend it against the interviewer, who challenged us rigorously.
At the summer school, we were put into small groups and our day consisted of three kinds of lessons: seminars, which were lessons with professors, in our groups; lectures delivered by professors, which all groups attended together; and critical response precepts, where we discussed recent lectures in our groups.
We enjoyed the presence of some fascinating people – Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University; David Schmidt and Cate Johnson, two world-renowned experimental economists; John Filling, Doctor of Philosophy at King’s College, Cambridge; and Jamie Whyte, a philosophy PhD and former leader of ACT New Zealand. We even got to meet the former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbot!
The faculty never failed to give exciting and, often, provocative lectures. I really enjoyed discussing them with the intellectually vibrant student body.
At the end of the course, we went to the Oxford Union to be subjected to Bryan Caplan’s Ideological Turing Test – where we’d have to argue for or against a certain proposition, regardless of our actual position on it, and if the student body believed we were genuinely arguing our true position, we’d have shown we were able to accurately represent a view which we had not necessarily agreed with.
The summer school was a life-changing experience for me and I urge people to register next year.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”