Class acts

It’s a curious week – not just truncated because of the extended weekend but also a week of daily contrasts between the slightly frenzied dotting around during the day (at conferences and meetings, mainly out of school) and the relative serenity of the evening’s activities. Yesterday was a case in point: the HMC summer briefing in London – all good, useful stuff and running admirably to time – followed by my failed attempt to dash back to catch the start of the Ian Bostridge concert; a missed train and I am standing like the naughty boy outside the auditorium, straining to catch what I can of the soulful Winterreise (the original twelve song version) through the double doors. But the second half – Charles Ives songs and the Britten Winter Words – is more than worth my initial frustration: there is something so brilliantly nonchalant about the way that this tall, be-suited man – at the top of his craft – lolls against the piano and then seems caught up in the songs, as if by some kind of benign accident. It is brilliant, mesmerizing stuff and great to see a good number of students there, lapping it up. A similar genius is there with Antony Sher‘s Falstaff which I was lucky enough to see (in the afternoon and the evening) at Stratford last month – a performance where the artist’s skill and its physical embodiment are so much at ease that you cannot “tell the dancer from the dance”. (Although, grisly irony here, it is sobering to know that Loie Fuller, the dancer who inspired Yeats to write this poem, met her maker as a result of her famously diaphanous scarf catching in the wheel of a car.) Plenty of Bedales students and I will see this week an enviable trio of class performers – Ian Bostridge, Stephen Fry and Martha Nussbaum – all no doubt possessed by their sundry crafts and their own nonchalances. Someone who also knows what he is doing, although nonchalant doesn’t catch it, is the now famous Mr Drew who, understandably in demand following the success of Educating Essex, is now engaged in a thoughtful battle of wills with various difficult lads in Mr Drew’s School for Boys (Channel 4). If you have  ever thought that tough love was merely a catchphrase, this should put you right.

Afternote: lambing going well – 25 born and 4 ewes yet to lamb.

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.

Appreciation of the beautiful

Appreciation of the beautiful was for a good while the only declared aim of Bedales – I am not certain for how long, but it was the only declared aim that I could find when I came here in 2001. Working with the community to agree five aims that captured the breadth of the place’s ideals was a necessary, welcome and stimulating initial task for me; but there is something admirable and clear-sighted about that single aim – trenchant, idealistic and uncluttered, it announces the school as wanting to do something uplifting and, in the best sense, other-worldly. When we re-drew the school aims, appreciation of the beautiful stayed and, buoyed up by the verdant late Spring beauty of our little surroundings, I said at the opening boarders’ assembly on Sunday evening that I suspected that the memory of the sheer beauty of this place would, along with the people, be what stayed with students longest in later life as the memory of what they had learnt in individual subjects faded. To emphasise the point, I called in my old ally and prime advocate of Nature’s variety and wildness, Gerard Manley Hopkins, enlisting Pied Beauty (“landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough”) and Inversnaid (“Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”).

Far more eloquent and evocative and a timely reminder of the appreciation of the beautiful that occurs here via our rich musical life, was John Barker’s vocal advert at our first Tuesday Notices of next week’s Ian Bostridge concert – a Schubert song sung beautifully by John and a call to action of the best kind.

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.