Pedalling for a bright future

By Tess Burrows, Old Bedalian

Bedalians have always been brilliant at being the change, shining a light bravely for others  to follow. Never has this been more important than now in the current climate crisis.

I’m sure you are aware that if we don’t collectively and urgently make changes, our world will rapidly become uninhabitable.

Please would you write a Climate Action Pledge promising what you personally can do as an extra commitment to make a difference at a global climate level?

Every positive action help. Think planting trees or cutting down on fossil fuels, eating local plant-predominant foods, or many other ways of cutting your own carbon emissions…

Complete your Climate Action Pledge on this form, and return it to me at tessburrows@yahoo.co.uk.

I am proud of my Bedales education, which I believe gave me a springboard to tackle seemingly impossible challenges to help our world. In the last 20 years, I have carried messages to the far points of the planet for peace. This Autumn, I have committed to carry Climate Action Pledges to COP 26, the United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, to lay at the feet of world leaders.

The journey will be 600 miles on my old mountain bike weighed down by camping gear, along with a friend and my granddaughter. I am very slow on a bike – I average not much more than four miles an hour! But we hope to inspire thoughts of getting around without using fossil fuels at whatever age. I am 73 and my granddaughter is 13.

Thank you for your support.

If you would like to sponsor us, we are raising funds for three environmental charities: Protect Our Winters (Climate Change Action), Sustrans (UK Cycling Network) and World Wide Fund for Nature (Save Tigers from Extinction). Five inspirational adventure books are also available to purchase on my website, sales in support of the above charities.

More info tessburrows.org/blog/pedalling-for-a-bright-future.

Farewell from outgoing Chair of Governors Matthew Rice

Valedictory letters aren’t much worth reading as… well… the writer is about to disappear in in a cloud of dust, but not to say thank you for having me feels rude so here is a thank you letter from your departing Head Governor.

I came to Bedales in 1975, the September before the hot summer when we sloshed water on our shirts before lessons, when the orchard was white as straw and when the pine trees made Steep smell like Provence. Mr Jacks, the school’s third headmaster came to visit; Tim Slack, the fourth was trying for a second time to be Liberal MP for Petersfield (he very nearly won); Roger Powell showed us how he was restoring a medieval Irish book in Froxfield and plenty of staff had been teaching long enough to have known our founder John Haden Badley.

Nearly 50 years on and plenty is unchanged, the Beechwood-Wooly hangers as backdrop and the mountain of Butser Hill to the South West and the wraparound green country that defines the school. In some ways the place is also unrecognisable as the last 20 years have seen the building of half of the school with the Orchard Building, the Art and Design Studios and now the Studies. But watching the students come out of Assembly it is hard not to see how very recognisable the actual body of the school is, and how the real continuum of Bedales remains its true and rightful owners: your children. Staff and governors, heads and chairmen steer and scheme but the heart of the place beats independently. It being Bedales, very independently.

In the 13 years that I’ve been on the Board (10 of them wearing the chief weasel’s hat), I have seen brilliant staff and children working together, watched staff building the roof of the pavilion, Old Bedalians restoring the Outdoor Work barn and building the loggia around the dining room, students involved in new designs for buildings and planting 40,000 daffodils. I have seen new giants arrive who will utterly inform your children’s lives like the great teachers of the past whose memorials have seen the Lupton Hall crammed to the gunwales with grateful students.

The late unpleasantness of COVID has made some of the joys of communal living seem hard to hang onto in these last two years but now we are (partly) back and lying in the orchard or bank, walking round the Mem Pitch and smelling those pines again.

Steve Nokes is taking over as Chair. He is an ex head and clever, wise and funny. You are in good hands I am sure of that. But more importantly in Magnus and Richard Lushington you have a team who make the school feel secure, impressive and progressive.

So thank you parents. Both for allowing me the actually huge privilege of doing this job for so long   but more importantly for choosing Bedales. Those hundreds of decisions form and sustain and populate my very best loved school and will provide the Bedalians and Old Bedalians and maybe Head Governors that will keep the show on the road.

Ave atque vale
Matthew

Old Bedalian returns for hockey coaching day

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

On Monday, we had the pleasure of welcoming back former Dunhurst and Bedales student Pippa Lock. Pippa is a member of the England Hockey U21 side, Great Britain Elite Development Squad and will be playing in the top flight of the English National League for the University of Birmingham.

Pippa started the day with a talk at Dunhurst, and it was lovely to hear her talk about her hockey journey and how it began exactly where the Dunhurst students were now sat.

The day then moved onto a packed timetable of pitch sessions on the Astro. Students from Group 3 all the way up to 6.2 were given an insight of some of the coaching and ideology that Pippa has experienced through the England Hockey Single System and within international squad sessions.

The day culminated in a presentation from Pippa in the Quad, where she talked about perseverance and setting goals. Already, there has been a tremendous amount of feedback about the impact Pippa had. We look forward to welcoming her back to Bedales soon, having achieved her goal of representing Great Britain at the 2024 Olympics.

The Bedales Chair

By Hugo Burge, Old Bedalian 1985-1990

It was a very special experience to return to Bedales and celebrate the history of the Bedales chair – giving a Jaw to students and other guests, showing our film The Chairmaker and taking questions. After all, this is where my curiosity (and I confess a slight obsession) with rush seat chairs all began. Sitting in those chairs, in that majestic library and under the spell of the wonderful David Butcher (staff 1963-92), wood, design and the Arts and Crafts movement got under my skin and started an unexpected journey. So, what is the history of these chairs? And why have we made a film that we brought to show everyone in the Lupton Hall? What does the chair symbolise when thinking about broader questions of design, longevity and sustainability?

The history of the Bedales chair is an under-told story but sits at the heart of the beautiful Bedales Memorial Library, arguably the ethos of the school and – more broadly – of the Arts and Crafts movement. Designed by Ernest Gimson, the visionary behind the extraordinary library and Lupton Hall that we have all come to love, the Bedales chair not only represents a long multi-generational tradition of making but also is a living tradition that has been under threat. Lawrence Neal has been making rush seat chairs for 50 years, learning from his father – who made them for 61 years, who learned from Edward Gardiner, who was directly apprenticed to Ernest Gimson. It is little known that you can look at many chairs in the library and see who made them by the stamp with their name on. Each chair has a story, a specific maker and embodies hundreds of years of tradition.

So, how did I get involved? Upon leaving university my first significant purchase of  furniture was six chairs from Lawrence Neal in 1994 – I simply felt that this was the most accessible reminder and embodiment of the library that I had come to love. More recently, when doing up a house in Scotland which was substantially re-modelled by the leading Scottish arts and crafts designer Sir Robert Lorimer (who has parallels to Gimson and Lutyens) my interest in rush seat chairs grew. This humble chair structure, perhaps the first mass-produced chair in Britain, was appropriated by the Arts and Crafts greats of the time – Ernest Gimson, Edwin Lutyens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, William Morris, William Burgess, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey and more. So, as my curiosity and our collection grew, I became aware that newly purchased chairs kept having to go to Lawrence Neal to repair and restore. Was there no one else? After all, Lawrence had at least a six month waiting list. I later came to understand that Lawrence might be the last person in Britain making and repairing these chairs for a living, having raised a family on the back of it.

When visiting his history-layered workshop, with his father’s SAS cap nonchalantly hanging on the back of the door, covered in layers of dust, I was struck by the beauty of the place and felt compelled to want to capture it in some way. Then, understanding that this lineage was under threat because Lawrence needed to sell the workshop to retire, and wanting to capture his story and all the history – I agreed to make a film with Falcon Productions. The resulting film has tried to capture the beauty of the chair making, the history of the chairs, Lawrence’s story and the living tradition. At the school, we also unveiled a short additional clip, celebrating the Bedales chair, with Matthew Rice (1975-80) reflecting on its iconic status, whilst David Snowdon harks back to the time he learned to make them in the woods, speaking to its humble origins but noble enduring nature.

The film includes a provocation that suggests that in order to ensure ongoing  craftsmanship with such a long history, we need to make conscious decisions to enable its survival, from celebrating the people who make them to deciding which products to buy. The Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against the industrial revolution in a period of massive change and wealth creation. William Morris (who inspired Gimson) felt that we needed to celebrate the craftsman,nature and hand-crafted beauty of things that we bought. In many ways there was a tension at the heart of his message since, as a devout socialist, he really became a purveyor of luxury goods to the wealthy. Today, we are experiencing a powerful information and technology revolution, that again is creating a complementary ground swell of interest in locally made things that are sustainable, can endure and have a story. Some great questions came up from students during the Lupton Hall film screening, that asked about the importance of mass-produced machine-made products. How do we find balance in an age of global consumerism? How can we seek sustainability? Clearly individually hand-made things are not the only answer, but they form an important balance and perhaps can also have a lasting impact, in the same way that the Arts and Crafts movement impacted design and furniture making in the 21st century.

So, next time you are in the Library, do sit on a Bedales chair and become aware of its wonderful history, the broader story it is part of and the symbol it represents as a handcrafted creation that is both timeless and subject to considerable longevity (even when exposed to the rough and tumble of school life).

In a cheery footnote to the Bedales Chair story, with the help of the Heritage Craft Association, we have managed to secure two apprentices to learn Lawrence’s craft to ensure that it endures for generations to come. When the apprentices have come of age and Lawrence says that they can stand on their own two feet, the workshops – with all the tools dating back to Ernest Gimson’s time at Daneway, will be moving up to new workshops in the old stables at Marchmont House in the Scottish Borders, so the lineage starts a new chapter that we hope will continue to evolve, inspire and endure.

There is an opportunity to bid for a specially commissioned Library Chair in the John Badley Foundation fundraising auction. See here to browse the auction lots – with new items added.

Lupton Hall memories

Lupton Hall mid-1920s (map chest 2)

By Alison Mallett (née Melville), Old Bedalian (1939-46)

My first memory of the Lupton Hall goes back to the thirties and my single-figure age, just at Dunhurst. I had heard that a play was to be performed there and decided to see it. I was told that I couldn’t as it was “unsuitable for young children”. A challenge there! I slipped in with the audience and slid under one of the pews near the front. Somebody saw me and hauled me out ignominiously. Some years later, once I had moved up to Bedales, I suffered many bum-numbing Jaws, admirable though the principle. How many activities come to mind: speech competitions, Merry Evenings, Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare when not outdoors. Details like Paul Williamson (1940-46) clasping his hands over his chest, declaring, “I never apologise!” Bob Collet’s (1919-22, staff 1929-46) amazing hands playing Liszt; or the melting tones of Gervase de Peyer (1939-43) and Mozart.

The green rooms below were often used as practice rooms where in anonymous privacy one could loudly wail out one’s sol with Kol Nidrei and the like.

My most striking adventure was musical. Two flautist friends, Geoffrey Spencer (1939-48) and Jan Fabricius (1942-46), got together a small band of volunteers to play a Brandenburg Concerto. Our first rehearsal was nearly terminal. With no conductor, we were all at sixes and sevens. So one after another, a player stood up and waved hands and arms around but, astonishingly, completely out of time. Finally Jan said: “Ali, you’ll have to do it”. Unconfident, I pulled a twig from Miss Hobbs’ (staff 1920-47) beautiful flower arrangement, and waved it around. Amazingly it seemed to work. Rehearsals became fun. Our music master, Harry Platts (staff 1937-46), got to hear of our venture and lent me his baton and lots of advice. We were to perform with the whole school. “Start off with a bold upswing of the baton,” Harry advised.

The two soloists stood close below me. I swung the baton up with a bold upswing. The tip caught Geoff’s music and sent it flying over the orchestra to land on the resting big drum below the stage. Kerplonk! The next few bars were drowned in laughter.

We used to get many lovely musical performances, from staff, pupils and visiting professionals. The Griller Quartet were much loved. All four were drafted into the RAF and turned up one visit in their uniform blue. Late Beethoven, out of this world. Except that the cellist’s buttons rattled hideously against his audience. Between two movements he called out to the audience, “Can anyone lend me a pair of scissors?” Someone produced the scissors. The cellist then cut off all his buttons.

Now I trust future Bedalians will cherish lovely memories of the restored Lupton Hall.