Designed to last: women’s suffrage

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Sunday afternoon and I am admiring  the work of our young designers who are hard at work on their BAC pieces in a Design all-in weekend: here is Gus G’s chandelier type light fitting inspired by the shape of a dried cow parsley head; there is Cannden’s shoe rack, cunningly moulded  (with help from the vacuum –shaper) into a suave shoerack; here is Sam A’s dress with a touch of snakeskin-like PVC;  over there is Thea L’s intergalactic-themed one; Hannah M has been inspired by the idea of a sea slug; Hamish G’s vest (gilet perhaps) is inspired by the German 1960s Memphis Group and Anton’s natty trousers have 1960s adverts welded into them.  And here is Tess’s elegant two-piece dress – in green, white and violet, the colours of the Suffragette movement to Give Women the Vote that resulted in the Representation of the People Act receiving royal assent on 6 February 1918.

I trust that the families who were so instrumental in the founding of  Bedales would be proud of all this fine work – particularly Tess’s commemorative work and, thinking more broadly, of the role played by Bedales men and women in their work for equal rights for women.  Here is an article in the Petersfield Post (Bedales’ founding families influenced Suffragist moves).

Ruth Whiting (Head of History 1963-2000) is doing important research into this, in particular the role of Amy Garrett Badley.  Her blog describes the absorbing story that Ruth is uncovering.  More is to come, including the account of Emmeline Pankhurst’s talk given in the Bedales Dining Hall.

Influencing

In our range of annual talks, the Global Awareness lecture is fast becoming one not to miss.  In 2013, the first speaker in this series, Dr Shahidul Alam spoke powerfully about what he called the Majority World – the Developing World in current Western parlance; he also spoke compellingly about “othering” – the sense that we needn’t treat other kinds of people as well as we would expect our own to be treated because they are different or other to us – imperial subjects, refugees, people of colour, disabled people.

Last night Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty,  gave as fluent, clear and compelling a case for human rights and civil liberties as most of us are likely to hear.  Take, for example, her stance on surveillance and the terrorist threat.  Worldly and risk averse in terms of accepting the government measure of the security threat, but fiercely principled on the surveillance that is deployed being targeted and proportionate rather than the kind of universal surveillance as proposed in the draft Investigative Powers Bill.  Do not be fooled by the “innocent have nothing to fear, nothing to hide” reassurance.

For the students proactive enough to get tickets, this was a brilliant example of the best kind of advocacy: warm, forensic, logical and rooted in a fierce belief in human dignity and rights.

Let’s hope that Shami’s next role will enable her to continue to deploy her gifts in the public arena.

Standing in silence…

Standing in silence on Tuesday morning notices, Bedales students and staff reflect on Friday’s horrific events in Paris – and how they strike at the heart of all we believe in – in particular the freedom we have to live our lives as we choose; we remember the dead and bereaved of these murderous attacks; reminding ourselves that we stand in total solidarity with the people of Paris and of France.

Appreciating the frailty of civil liberties

How do you jog young people into appreciating the frailty of civil liberties? Bring someone like Andrei Sannikov to speak to them. For many, an abstract concept was made real, as his story and that of his sister, Irina Bogdanova, who also spoke, unfolded at Civics last night. We started the evening seeing a ten minute film about Andrei, co-founder of Free Belarus, and in particular the consequences for him and his supporters of standing up against President Lukashenko, as they did on 19 December 2010 when they mounted a peaceful demonstration in central Minsk. The shots of the riot police beating their shields in unison and then charging at the demonstrators was chilling; Andrei had both his legs broken and was imprisoned, initially with a five year sentence for “organising mass disorder”. It was only after considerable intervention from Amnesty International and other humanitarian organisations that he was released. Granted political asylum in the UK and living now with his sister in Woking, Free Belarus, the movement for democratic change that he leads now continues to lobby for action against Lukashenko, in particular through economic sanctions. Andrei’s dignity and courage, understated and (in the best sense) modest, came over powerfully as he talked of the continuing struggle, of the links between corruption and dictatorship, of being in a Minsk jail (“horrid”), of the importance of organisations that work for human rights and of the need never to take civil liberties for granted.  Note to self is to ensure that a regular thread within our range of visiting speakers is someone who can speak from personal experience about their own struggle for liberty.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.