Fashion Show – It’s a Jungle Out There!

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By Jake Scott

mg_6974The Bedales Sixth Form put on a fashion show in November, and I was invited to go along.  Even though I’ve been to a professional fashion show before, this was amazing to see it done at a school.  It inspired me to put on a fashion show at Dunhurst.  The question was, would I be allowed to do this?  How would I go about it….and would anyone be interested in being involved?

After I’d seen the sixth form show, I went back to school and asked Simon (my housemaster) if I could run a fashion show and he was enthusiastic and willing to help.  As he runs the school plays, this was a huge advantage – he knows how to put on a show!

I planned to announce it in assembly, but I had to work out what I was announcing and what I wanted from the students.  I had some clothes that I had designed and made from scratch, and so had a couple of other people.  However, I knew that this wasn’t enough so we needed to work out how to include more.  I thought of the textiles club and thought there may be some items from that, and lots of people were generally interested in fashion, so maybe we could create something.  I hoped there would be enough between all of us to pull something together.

So I worked out what areas I would need help with. In assembly I announced that I was going to be doing a fashion show and asked for helpers backstage, models, people who had made clothes and prop/set makers. I was amazed at how many people came to speak to me afterwards.  In my notebook, I wrote down their names in the areas they would help with.  It was wonderful that so many people were interested and even excited at this early stage – I felt that I could really do this!

The main challenge to begin with was getting the clothes that people had made – some people said they had made stuff but it never turned up.  It felt at the beginning that we wouldn’t have enough clothes to make a show, but then Simon came up with the idea of putting outfits together from our costume department (wardrobe).  This was a great idea, and wardrobe went one step further by giving us clothes that wouldn’t be used in the future and said we could do whatever we wanted with them, to give them a new life.  What was great was that there were people interested in doing this who had never done anything with clothes before, and it was fun to introduce them to up-cycling and help them with developing their sewing skills.

Once I knew that we were on track I had to work out a date and a venue. Luckily the week after half term was the year 4-6 play and so we had the idea to use their set and adapt it.  It was a Greek set with pillars and statues.  My idea was to turn it into an overgrown civilisation….this is where the theme of ‘the jungle’ came from.

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Our Australian Gap student, Mae, had experience of working at a fashion show so she was a great help, setting out various things I would need to consider.  She also helped create a mood board for me and the upcyclers to use for upcycling from wardrobe, and lots of other organisational things to think about…lighting…sound…staging…running order…etc!

As we got closer to the date, we needed to make sure parents were invited and students were aware it was happening – we needed an audience!  That involved sending out invites, putting up posters around the school (that Mae designed) and arranging catering for refreshments.  I also was keen to make it an event that would benefit a charity, and I have done fundraising for Christopher’s Smile before and I’m passionate about continuing to do this, so I nominated them as the charity.

We were really on a roll now!  And every day I had new ideas for the fashion show, so it was an on-going creative project.

In order to have as many garments as possible, the textiles club upcylcled men’s shirts by stencilling and embroidering on them, and generally adapting them.  Every Wednesday afternoon the upcyclers would meet in the textiles department to work on their creations from wardrobe – even the English teacher and art technician made garments! The other set of clothes we had were dresses that I had designed and made, and dresses that a year 7 student had designed and made – we have both been passionate about fashion for years and love to design and make clothes.  He and I have frequently met to discuss fashion, and he was very involved in the show, upcylcing from wardrobe and modelling too.  I hope that I’ve started a tradition in my final year of putting on a fashion show, and that he will carry it on.

What makes a fashion show successful?  Not only the clothes…music, lighting, models and the catwalk.

img_4924-cropIn my spare time, I would search music and listen to different genres to see what might go well with the Jungle theme.  I considered traditional club music that would normally go with a fashion show, I thought about rock (which I love), but in the end I decided to introduce African Drums (the jungle theme!) in between some modern club tracks.

You also need to have intro music whilst people are taking their seats.  Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz and thought this would be welcoming without being overwhelming.

Once we had the foundations of the show in place, I had to think about the detail.  The first thing I had to do was assign garments to models and check they fitted.  Mae helped with this.  We had all the finished garments on a rack and we labelled up the hangers with the model’s name.  Each model had two or three outfits.

I then thought about how to present the clothes during the show, and worked out that having ‘collections’ would work the best.  So I grouped together the shirts from textiles club, the homemade garments, the dresses by me and the year 7 fashion designer, and finally the upcycled wardrobe garments.  I thought that during the show, between these sections, I would introduce the next lot of clothes to give context to the show and time for the models to get changed. One thing we had to keep in mind was that we had to order these so that it flowed nicely and the models had enough time to get changed backstage. Mae did this.

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The running order is crucial so this means making sure that all the garments are in the right section and labelled with their order, and that models will be on the catwalk at the right time having had enough time to change backstage. This is where the backstage crew come in.  They had to be extra organised in getting the models lined up backstage (there was a boys and girls changing room).  We had to have people by each door ready to send the next model on in the right order.  Quite a lot to think about!

img_4858I had been really organised, writing lists of things I had to do or ask for help with each week, ticking them off as I went.  I was surprised at generally how calm I was….until the week of the show, when I had a mini meltdown on the Monday night!  I guess this was to be expected, but in the end I knew that the show would go on, and if there were some blips, it wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…

The week of the show! The years 4-6 play had finished and the set was eagerly waiting to be made into a jungle…I briefed the prop and set makers with what I needed them to do.  We went to the prop cupboard and got anything to do with jungles…camo nets, leaves, branches, ferns, flowers, etc, and set about transforming the area.  I had done a diagram of the catwalk, that I showed the set team. The idea was to put two pillars either side of the centre stage, near the audience, which created a space for the models to walk to and do a pose/twirl. We also got Facilities to hang up a HUGE camo net along the back wall to form a backdrop onto which we put up the wording ‘It’s a jungle out there’ in ransom-note-style multi coloured paper. This title was an homage to Alexander McQueen as his first show as head of Givenchy was named the same.

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The day before the show, during clubs time, I asked all the models and some of the back stage crew to come for an initial rehearsal.  We ran through the pace at which they would walk (slow pace to fast music) and the route on the catwalk.  There were complaints about the slow walk – the models thought it might not work, but I was insistent because I knew it would be powerful and graceful.  Some of the models weren’t there due to dance rehearsals which made it difficult because they had missed out on the instructions. Luckily it was easy for them to catch on to it the next day.

img_4928On the day of the show, which was to be at 6pm, we finalised the running order.  We added some last minute garments that we hadn’t had the day before. We had time in the afternoon for a tech run through, which included sorting out the lights and music.

And finally we had all the models together for a dress rehearsal, with lights and music.

At this point I had to look at the detail.  We fine-tuned the running order, and made sure models were aware that they had to go completely barefoot (no socks or leggings) unless instructed to.  We made sure that bra straps weren’t visible and that they made good poses. I got the models together at various times during the afternoon to remind them of various things like this.

makeupThe other thing that we had done was to make crowns, which I thought would look good with the hair and makeup that Mae had proposed.  However, during rehearsals the crowns weren’t working.

At the last minute, just before the show was to go on, I decided that they weren’t needed and might distract from or clash with the garments so I decided to call off the crowns.

The makeup was tricky to apply, and we had some panics backstage just before the show, getting lots of people to help!  And it didn’t help that we ran out of hairspray and hair gel….but now I’ve learnt that I will need to check these details next time!

Another theme that emerged – and I think we tackled it successfully – was gender neutral dressing.  We had boys in girls’ clothes and vice versa.  This didn’t raise an eyebrow amongst the young or the old in the audience, which I thought was wonderful.

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On the night, the show went really well and we all had lots of fun. It was great because we had time to do it twice.  I think that some people were surprised at the decision to do it again, but the models relaxed and enjoyed the second time more, and the audience were able to see the clothes again. I don’t think it would have been the same show if we hadn’t done that.

The sixth formers whose show had inspired me came and really enjoyed it, and I got lots of really positive feedback. There were over 40 students involved in pulling this together, which was great.  I think that people were impressed and surprised by what they saw, as they weren’t expecting it to be such a big event.  I was also delighted to raise £69.07 for Christopher’s Smile!

Gulwali Passarlay visits Dunhurst

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By Simon Kingsley-Pallant, Head of Drama

A young man is speaking to the pupils of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst. He is 22 years old and his name is Gulwali. He is telling the story of how he came to England from Afghanistan and what happened on that year long journey and the life he has made for himself since.

The date he addresses the school is important too. It’s 20 January 2017, the same day that the most powerful nation on earth inaugurates her 45 President.  As a teacher I am struck by Gulwali’s immense sense of purpose as an advocate for the defenceless, for those displaced by war, and by his humility and humanity. He tells of his early boyhood as a hill shepherd, his extended family and his first time at school. We hear how the fighting began in 2001 and of how Gulwali’s relatives were killed; of how his adored mother sent Gulwali and his brother to Europe, to England, in search of a better, safer life.

The audience listen with rapt attention as Gulwali describes his odyssey through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria and onward to Italy and the Jungle in Calais. He tells of the danger, the fear, the setbacks, the heartbreak, but also of his faith and his hope and the determination he has to find his brother. At one point he almost drowns in the Mediterranean, and he tells us five thousand people died that way in 2016.   Four thousand drowned in 2015. There is a pause, the scale of this human catastrophe is hard to comprehend.

Gulwali’s story is one of resilience and hope, of luck and success. He tells it eloquently in his soft spoken and accented English, the fifth of the five languages he speaks. He has co-written a book about his experiences, The Lightless Sky,  where the details are more harrowing, more troubling than he has let on for this younger audience. Rounding off his talk, in which he has stressed the importance of education and implored the pupils to make the most of what they have, he asks them to consider what legacy they would like to leave when they are adult citizens of the world.

As that question is briefly, yet deeply pondered in the silence of our school meeting place, I realise that not once has Gulwali resorted to bitterness, blame or hatred. In his matter-of-fact personal narrative he has only been decent and humane. He has known violence, war, and the extremes of human behaviour, but there is no rancour or revenge in his speech.  How different, how utterly different from the words heard at the same time in the capital of the most powerful nation on earth.

Dunhurst brings Norse myths to Steep stage

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Pupils at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst brought the Norse myths to life last week in a dynamic and compelling refashioning of the ancient stories for the stage. Burning Ice, Biting Flame told the story of how the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil (the Great Ash Tree of Norse cosmology) are tricked into self-destruction by the god Loki. Desiring revenge for the maltreatment of his hideous family, Loki creates havoc and plays each world off against the other which culminates in Ragnarok – the end of the world.

Pupils in Blocks 1 and 2 (year 7 & 8) worked incredibly hard to bring this production to the stage with everyone working over the weekend to prepare for the final performances. They were set to work acting, rehearsing with the band, prop making, and organising back stage – the pupils were involved in every aspect of the production. They also had free reign to develop their on stage characters and add in lines they thought would work.

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Head of Drama at Dunhurst Simon Kingsley-Pallant, who wrote the play, said: “Following on from the success of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we wanted to do something a little different and to make it more unusual. The stories are very potent, full of vitality and adventure. And really, they should be much better known than they are.  Essentially the gods are a highly dysfunctional extended family, always bickering and competing with one another, sometimes with lethal results, and the cast thoroughly enjoyed playing these powerful yet flawed beings.”

With a beautifully created set by Susan Macfarlane, Head of Art at Dunhurst, depicting the Nine Worlds, the production was soundscaped by Ben Harlan and the band. Much of the music was improvised with voice, harp, drums, synths, bottles, cans, and crackling plastic to create some wonderful sound effects.  Rosie Nash choreographed the dances, two of which were epic – the Creation of Yggdrasil and the Binding of Loki, all contributing to a memorable and enthralling production.

*Photos by John-Paul Bland; to view the full gallery on the photographer’s site, click here and enter the password which can be found in your emailed version of the Saturday Bulletin 1 October 2016. Any purchase of image downloads from this gallery will benefit the John Badley Foundation which offers financial support through bursaries, giving more young people a chance to benefit from the transformational opportunity a Bedales education can provide.

Drop Everything And Read… with dogs!

DEAR reading blog Dunhurst 1Each Monday and Friday the Groups children (and anyone else who wants to join in) have 30 minutes of reading time, known here at Dunhurst as DEAR Time: Drop Everything And Read.

Because of our busy lives, we sometimes forget how important and how lovely it is to find a few minutes in our day for some quiet reading. During the colder months we read in the library, but we are looking forward to when we can read outside in Cobb’s field.

While most children seem to enjoy this period of calm and quiet reading in their day, there are some who no doubt find DEAR Time absolute torture – either because they do not like reading, or perhaps just find it difficult to stay still and quiet for 30 minutes. Research reveals the worrying news that there are millions of children who simply don’t like to read and, more and more, are choosing not to. The challenge for us is to make the reading environment irresistible, and the experience itself delightful and satisfying.

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In the lead up to World Book Day we introduced a new reading programme, DEAR Time with Dogs, which we are very excited about. Research suggests children, especially those who struggle with reading, can be nervous and anxious when reading aloud in class.  Reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect of the dog’s presence and the fact that the dog will listen to children read without being judgmental or critical. And, we all know what great listeners dogs are!

Here at Dunhurst we are fortunate to have our very own dogs to read to in the familiar surrounds of their owners’ (our teachers) classrooms, and this comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading. Reading is such an important skill which is used in every part of our lives, but reading aloud can be a scary thing if you are a reluctant reader. Like any skill, it needs practice, practice and practice, andDEAR reading blog Dunhurst 2 if reading to Gertie, Vinnie, and their friends Star, Stubbs, Jackson, Dozer and Frazzle can help develop children’s self- confidence and passion for reading while they are still finding their voice, who knows what else we will discover and where this journey will take us.  Aren’t we all lucky to be at a school where this can happen as part of our normal, everyday life?

By Tess Tamvakis, Dunhurst Librarian

Risk and the resilient child

Recently, Bedales parents gathered at the school for an absorbing presentation on ‘Building Resilient and Happy Young People’ by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg – adolescent psychologist of 30 years standing, Honorary Psychologist to the Australian Boarding Schools Association, agony uncle to Girlfriend magazine and Old Dunhurstian. Those of us present were left in little doubt as to what our children need from us with regard to their developing ‘resilience’. Michael describes this as “The capacity of your sons and daughters to face, overcome, be transformed or strengthened by adversity,” and advises parents that they must let their children learn that life is sometimes hard.

And yet, increasingly in today’s society we fail to allow our children to do things for themselves, and the vital experience of things going wrong. We really need to look at this again. Recent research suggests that we believe children are more at risk now than they were a generation ago, when the reverse is true. Also, that the majority of children want more adventurous play opportunities – it seems that activities such as climbing trees and playing in a park without adult supervision; or playing conkers, hide and seak, and chase, lie beyond the experience of many.

We underestimate our children. They are perfectly able to light fires and cook outdoors without adults stepping in when things get hot. How do I know this? Because I can remember the joy of grabbing a packet of sausages from the fridge, a frying pan, some oil and a box of matches, and heading out into the woods with my friends. After several failed attempts we lit the fire. However, it was a cold day and the fat in the pan didn’t get hot enough – nonetheless, we ate the resulting oily and soggy snack and headed home with upset stomachs. The next day we repeated the exercise, and this time cooked the bread to perfection.

Children can make things using a range of tools without adults hovering over them. I can remember raiding the family shed and finding bits of wood, nails, screws, brackets and fixtures and making all manner of bird boxes, coffins for dead mice I found in the garden, dodgy go-carts, musical instruments and rustic furniture for my less than grateful guinea pigs. It didn’t always go smoothly – I cut and bruised my fingers every now and then, suffered my share of failures, and was guilty of tantrums when things didn’t go to plan. Despite this, or more likely because of it, the experience gave me a great deal. Michael Carr-Gregg stresses the importance to the wellbeing of young people, and indeed all of us, of ‘spark’ – that passion for something that gets us out of bed, and which sees time fly past, such is the extent of our absorption. To this day I remain a DIY fanatic, and I am certain that these childhood opportunities were the foundations of this and other interests that keep me happy and fulfilled as an adult.

I know that for some first-time visitors to Dunhurst, the informal atmosphere and slightly chaotic medley of lessons and activity that makes up the school day can seem a little bewildering. This is a necessary part of our wish to make school an exciting place in which to grow up and find out who you really are. Essential to what makes Dunhurst different to other schools is that we allow pupils to do things for themselves whenever possible. We encourage children to take appropriate risks and we see mistakes as an indication that they are being challenged in the right ways – leading an assembly and speaking in front of over 200 people, asking the community to bake cakes and raise money for charity, lighting fires and eating their own cooking in Outdoor Work, designing and pursuing their own science experiments, taking on maths problems that seem way too difficult (and perhaps getting the answer wrong), reading out a poem that shows how you feel about yourself and the world around you, or speaking up when you think something is unjust.

To paraphrase Dr Carr-Gregg, our role as teachers and parents is not to protect our children from risk, but to nurture and encourage sensible risk-taking. Risk is what enables children to learn and grow and to know themselves well. So when you visit Dunhurst and see the smoke of children’s fires burning in Outdoor Work or hear an alarming noise from the science labs, fear not. It is no more and no less than children enjoying the pleasures of learning through taking risks – suffering the odd setback, perhaps, but in danger of little more than developing a love for something that will reward their investment many times over.

By Jane Grubb, Head, Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst

 

The Snow Queen

There is often a misplaced perception that all pupils who come to Dunhurst are super confident and at a drop of a hat will jump in front of a large audience, sing, dance, act and take their bow in the limelight with an apparent casual ease well beyond their years. In the latest performance of The Snow Queen we saw a fabulous cast of actors doing just that; the mesmerising white apparition of Evie as the lead role captivating the audience with her beautiful solo singing pieces before being carried off by her pack of highly accomplished dancing wolves during her death scene. Tilly’s incredible presence as the truly terrifying Crystal Shard was joined by her team of equally animated and eye catching fellow travellers who could all sing, act and dance in equal measure. The dance numbers were both full of fun and life but also very beautiful as seen in the gorgeous choreography of Ella and Monty.  Dan and Ella took the fascinating and compelling story through its journey from their orphanage to the villagers and then onward, meeting ever more strange and wonderful creatures, fairy tale characters and even gardeners, a royal family and politicians. A large cast of extremely talented young people indeed.

In many ways what we saw on stage was the tip of a very creative iceberg; behind the scenes there were those who have a wealth of other creative talents and who are blessed with a tremendous community spirit, keen to support their peers on stage whilst gaining great pleasure and satisfaction from their work behind the scenes. Firstly the musicians who are concealed in the pit, but at such a young age played alongside highly accomplished adult musicians. The music and all the beautiful songs were composed and arranged by Ben Harlan our Director of Music and were complex and challenging but it was clearly evident that all the band loved being part of this new creation – adult and child alike.  Up in the lighting box were Joly and Will; a complex task ensuring that all the amazing lighting effects (including a spectacular sky of stars) appeared at the right time. Billy had the difficult job of sound, working with our wonderful new Gap students Alec and Verity he worked ceaselessly over the rehearsal period supporting the acting.

Back stage is a very frenzied place as actors transform into character. Frances, Charlotte, Emma and Georgie had produced clear designs and organised the make-up area. It is no mean feat to put makeup on a very large cast of pupils, many with more than one part thanks to Simon Kingsly-Pallant’s highly imaginative adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story. Working like removal men were the stage crew, Joaquin, Ivan, Hugo, Lorenzo, Max, Nicholas, Charlie, Jamie and Herman. They deftly carried a myriad of props and stage elements on and off with great care; not a glamourous job but very indicative of their good heartedness to be involved and support their peers. Beatrice and Ernie made up the production team and a large number of pupils (and staff) helped to fold the programmes into a rather natty star shape.

A fantastic team of parents produced the costumes, with the wolves costumes receiving much acclaim and the overall colour and vibrancy of the costumes alongside the more minimal black and white set worked magnificently. At the end of the play, Evie thanked Jake for her Snow Queen dress. It was an incredible creation and something that represented hours of designing, thought and work from our very talented Block 1 fashion designer. What was very tangible was the gratitude those on stage felt towards their support teams, designers and techies. It was a fabulous whole community production where all pupils could participate according to their own skills and passions, with those on stage having the humility to appreciate the talents and generosity of their peers behind the scene, and those behind the scenes happily celebrating the talents of those they were supporting.

By Jane Grubb, Head, Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst

Passionate men, and how to get more of them

Sometimes it seems that we think of little else. Whilst you could be forgiven for believing that I spend too much time reading a certain type of women’s magazine, I am in fact talking about male primary school teachers. To be more specific, I want to share some thoughts on the benefits of having them in junior schools, why achieving this can be so difficult, and how the problem might best be approached by school heads and policy makers respectively. Whilst there is no magic bullet, I believe that the right school ethos and culture can help persuade potential applicants that they will be given the opportunity to do what they most care about, and that this can go a long way.

In a recent article in The Telegraph, Julia Hartley-Brewer applauds the rising numbers of women in boardroom positions in the UK and the positive effects this has on organisational performance, but laments the lack of gender balance in primary school classrooms. Also in The Telegraph, Neil Lyndon has argued that boys fall behind girls as a consequence of the relative lack of male teachers working with younger children. Whilst I find myself raising an eyebrow at some of the arguments he employs in support of his claim, I agree that there is merit in having a strong male presence on the teaching staff, and that achieving this can present a challenge.

Rectifying this gender imbalance can be easier said than done however, not least as there is a range of disincentives to men considering the profession. As Lyndon points out, it offers relatively low status, and issues around child protection can see men attracting scrutiny as to their motives. Nor are the salary prospects great. It takes some courage, then, and a commitment to early years’ education, for men to enter the profession and contend with all that accompanies being a primary school teacher.

This is a great pity. In my experience, men can be valuable role models at a formative point in young people’s lives. Men are able to relate to boys, in particular, in ways that that carry a special kind of weight – essential if we are to deal with the ever-present danger that boys see learning as something that only girls do. Hartley-Brewer observes that boys often need a “more competitive, hands-on style of teaching that male teachers are more likely to understand.” I am not so sure: without it ever becoming overt, there is something very powerful in a man giving lessons that encourage deep thinking, or modelling the kind of gentleness, restraint and respect that is valued and expected at school and beyond.

Lynton ascribes the feminisation of primary school teaching to the introduction of pay parity for the genders in the early 1960s, followed by what he describes as a “feminist mission to raise the self-esteem and social position of girls” at the expense of the education of boys. I have never experienced any kind of ideological intent or overt gender preference in teachers with whom I have worked, and the culture of Bedales means that such dispositions in any applicant would be detected and dealt with during the process of interview.

During my time at Bedales, the prep school has enjoyed consistently the benefits of broadly equal numbers or male and female staff. At the time of writing we have 15 male and 23 female teachers. I like this ratio – it brings with it a culture that we value, and which is thrown awry whenever the balance shifts. It matters to us enormously that – as with staff – the boys and girls in our care should appreciate each other first and foremost as colleagues.

So – is there a secret to attracting passionate men that I might share? For heads, I suspect that the trick lies in developing an educational ethos and accompanying culture that attracts the very best applicants with the promise of the licence to do what they do best. Seek to recruit the teachers that most suit the requirements of the school, and have applicants undergo the assessment of a number of people – both staff and pupils. Above all, develop an educational ethos that values inquisitiveness, individualism and creativity, because I suspect that somewhere within such a mission lies the attraction of primary school for male teachers. Any policy makers persuaded that, instead, a good education necessarily comprises a rigid curriculum and ever more testing, please take note.

By Jane Grubb, Head, Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst