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.

Bedales’ creative pulse

Pootling round Design on the Sunday of the design BAC all in weekend brings surprise after surprise. Round the corner I go and there is Chloe Z, looking quizzical with head of design, Ben Shaw; they are looking mystified at Chloe’s fiendishly complicated on-screen design for her stage clock – which comprises a series of cogs behind a transparent surface and which will be an integral part of one of the forthcoming BAC Drama plays – no pressure! Round the next corner and school wordsmith, Chris B is standing by something I think I recognise – but, no, being a table would be too simple: it’s a lighting desk which he has designed in concert with advice from drama production and which will adorn the drama studio in due course. Wow! Mo looks on admiringly. I am only two in and we are already joining hands across the curriculum. Now here I really do find a table – a proper Arts & Crafts’ one being handsomely crafted by James G; he tells me how a mortice and tenon joint works and I caress the oak. Now we are back into a different kind of exotic as Tilly D-S talks me through her Japanese style puzzle box which is constructed very much in the De Stijl way – a melange of national influences. Ellie K is forming a sizeable, sinuous light out of plywood: this entails shaping a polystyrene mould by hand – the plywood will be moulded onto this through some ultra-crafty vacuum technique and then it will become an elegant, serpentine, stylish light. Rhea P is at a very recognisable lathe, carving her spherical, cherry wood jewellry box and having to get the two sides to match up – hand and eye stuff of the old kind, generating good old-fashioned sawdust.

Across the way, the fashionistas are hard at work (in fashion design, clearly). Poor people have to put up with my truly naive questions – what their theme/inspiration is/how it will all work/what’s it made of/can you mass-produce it? They are very patient and, yes, I am really intrigued: the creative pulse, the sense of an individual student coming up with an idea and making the idea substantial and real beats behind each piece. So here is Monty C’s plant-inspired black dress, with its shimmering blue chiffon leaves on top; there is Flora S’s New Romantics (think Adam Ant/Manchester in the 80s) play suit (think jolly cut off dungarees); Chloe J’s Mary Quant style dress is ultra elegant with its brightly coloured shoulder flashes (epaulettes? not quite); and what about Sam H’s golden goddess dress, with its golden sash round the waist? Teachers Susanna and Louise move much more helpfully and quietly amongst their charges. Hunched over her bench Daisy N is working at her mitred (another technical term bagged) corners, whilst India H’s natural fruit-sources dyes and design have a folksy appeal; Hannah B’s is on the bird theme – with the colour and plumage of a tawny owl creating a striking effect. It’s all very inspiring and heartening – great progress being made.

Finally, almost as heartening and on the theme of Britain’s place in world fashion, a fine article in the weekend FT about the revival of Harris Tweed –  featuring Donald John Mackay, who makes 27 yards of tweed a day. Now Nike, who have decided to put tweed on trainers, want 10,000 yards. Tweed manufacture is booming in the Outer Hebrides and an indigenous industry is saved. If someone had asked Adam Ant if people would one day wear tweed on their trainers, I wonder what he would have said.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales School

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.