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Head Master’s Final Assembly

Welcome, boys, to the final assembly for one of the most extraordinary terms in the school’s history – not to mention the country’s history. I do hope that you are proud of what you are about to hear; you really should be. You have faced all sorts of challenges, physical and mental, and yet have shown spirit, resilience and a determination to keep going with as much energy as possible and as mutually supportively as possible. Despite what some might think, you have learned a lot; and in time you will look back upon this period as one of immense achievement. Well done to you all.

So, to start with some (significantly interrupted!) sport…

SPORT


Hockey

A hockey term cut short by the pandemic, resulted in only seven hockey sessions for the boys. Every session has been full of endeavour, enthusiasm and quality play. Boys have played competitive inter-squad fixtures, house matches for U14s (won jointly by St Cuthbert’s and Crescent) and have trained with next year’s season in mind. The Upper Sixth have demonstrated exactly the values expected from Bedford School sport. Despite having the chance of competitive matches removed, they never complained and instead organised and coached their own sessions, played well-fought games in great spirits and ensured every single person was included and able to have a good experience. 

Alfie Willcocks, Freddie Stock and James Worker deserve special mention for planning and leading warm-ups and sessions. Whilst it was not the end any of the group imagined, we can all be proud of the way the boys turned these three weeks into an opportunity, instead of lamenting their loss.

Hockey Honours Caps are awarded to:

  • James Worker
  • Freddie Stock
  • Finlay Cummings
  • Alfie Wilcocks

 Major Sports Colours for Hockey are awarded to:

  • Elliot Potter
  • Archie Walsh

 Minor Colours for Hockey are awarded to:

  • Sam Garrett
  • Phil Hughes
  • Yaamin Mohammed
  • Felix Lange
  • Joe Needham
  • Will Sayer
  • Charlie Thompson
  • Hasnain Zaidi

 Major Sports Colours for Rowing were awarded to:

  • Will Garner

Minor Sports Colours for Squash were awarded to:

  • Ed Mathew-Jones

Fives

It has been fantastic to have boys back on the courts and playing year group tournaments. Winners at the time of recording: Toby L’Estrange (Removes) and Arav Kirtane (Fifth Form).

Remote Sport

In keeping with our philosophy, the message that the PE and games department has consistently given is that all boys should have some form of exercise as part of their daily routine. The nature and suitability of this exercise will have varied depending on the individual and individual circumstances, as well as government and National Governing Body guidelines. However, the programme and competitions that were devised were to try and engage as many boys as possible, as well as give some structure to each week!

Boys were encouraged to get involved with the House Activity competition, by recording all activity sessions on the Strava app, with points being awarded for every session posted. The number of activities posted grew as the term progressed and regularly surpassed 300 in total each week. The final results can be seen below – Congratulations to Bromham on an impressive victory.

HouseFinal Total
Bromham665
St Peter's384
Paulo Pontine360
Crescent327
Ashburnham269
St Cuthbert's204

Every week through this period, an ‘athlete of the week’ award was given to the boy with the ‘best’ contribution in each year group. This culminated in the ‘athlete of the term’ award. A huge well done to these boys.

Well done to all the boys who have got involved with this remote and somewhat distant way of taking part in sport and physical activity.

Well done, too, to the 30 or 40 overseas boys who have lived here and taken part in regular sporting sessions all term – they have done so with a smile on their faces and a commitment to good health – and to the similar number (and similar attitude) of the children of key workers, who have enjoyed their exercise on site, too.

Music

The music department has been very busy this spring term, and we have been delighted that instrumental and singing lessons have continued throughout the lockdown period. Online recorded performances were posted on the school social media platforms throughout lockdown, including a weekly concert series and a number of recordings from the Chapel Choir. It has been very good to see the boys back in school for the last few weeks, and we look forward to making music together in the year group bubbles. Advance notice to boys that we will be running the Instrumental Music Competitions next term, so get practising over the holidays!

As an example of what the department has been up to, here is a remarkable recording of choral evensong by the Chapel Choir, compiled across this term. Every single individual voice on this has been recorded separately during the spring term and then balanced and mixed together to create the final outcome – over 250 individual tracks recorded by boys from Y7 to the Upper Sixth in the Chapel Choir. Quite an undertaking! The link is here

The full music lockdown playlist can be accessed here

Drama

Bedford School’s Academic Drama Society has continued to flourish even through the lockdown. Dylan Swain, our president, has continued to support the society and we regularly get 20 members attend each week. Dylan writes: 

The Society kicked off an unanticipated online spring term with a talk by Oscar Easterbrook, who gave a talk on cinema through the ages and how it changed theatre; it was an inspired and academic lecture from such a young member, and this was followed by a talk by Louis Cooke, another Remove drama scholar. Will Roberts joined us the next week for a talk on podcasts, recommending a number of podcast-based radio dramas and giving the boys advice on how they might start their own podcast. The next week saw a talk from Josh Cooke on Musical Theatre. After returning from half term break, Upper Sixth Form student and Drama scholar, Rowan Bascetta-Pollitt, shared his wisdom as he recounted his experiences in National Youth Theatre and student drama. As March began, our first external speaker joined us, as former Speech and Drama teacher Dani Boughey returned for a monologue-writing workshop that had the boys thinking about how they build character through different media. OB and ex-president of the Drama Society George Robertson then joined us for a talk on Katie Mitchell, discussing her feminist theatre and intense character work. Finally, boys interested in using their drama skills in future careers were offered the perspective of Kristina Goodwin, a barrister and former drama A-Level student, who gave an insight into how her dramatic education helped with her work in the legal field.

Drama Society this term has been brimming with student enthusiasm and a consistent attendance, it is encouraging to see the continued involvement from so many students, and we can only hope that we will be back in the theatre with cake and sandwiches as soon as we are able!

In addition, Ms Bassaly gave a wonderful lecture on Greek theatre and its history, and a thank-you must go to Drama scholars Will Roberts, Louis Cooke, Rowan Bascetta-Pollitt, Oscar Easterbrook and Josh Cooke for their lectures. All boys engaged their audience and provoked some thoughtful discussion.

LAMDA students have performed their monologues to camera and the highlights film will be released soon on social media.

Art

For the only Gilbert Lloyd lecture of the term, we were delighted to welcome Frances Spalding, an art historian, critic and biographer with a specialism in 20th century British Art. In her lecture ‘John Piper – the Making of his Vision’, Frances effortlessly led us through Piper’s diverse and long career contextualising the historical background for the work he produced and at the same time encouraging us to think carefully about the aesthetic qualities of the individual pieces of work we were looking at. For those boys doing art who were watching, it was a brilliant demonstration of just how to look at and analyse an artwork, something they all find challenging. Piper’s career included stage design most famously for operas by Benjamin Britten, stained glass, illustration, prints as well as writing. Having postponed this lecture in September in the hope that we would be able to host the lecture ‘live’ at school, we were extremely grateful to Frances for providing an excellent and memorable online alternative.

Always a highlight of the creative arts calendar is the judging of the Detweiler Art prize and this year it was done by digital submissions. We were delighted that former Director of Art and the current staff-elected Governor, Rob Campbell, agreed to be this year’s judge, with entries on the theme of Gods and Goddesses. The 2D First prize went to Simeon Gay (Upper Sixth) for his powerful portrait of George Floyd, and the 3D First Prize went to David Chan (Upper Sixth) for his haunting and sculptural dress.

It has been a busy term for both the Art and Architecture Societies. The term got underway with Henry Flatt (Lower Sixth) talking about Zaha Hadid and her journey to become one of the most important architects of all time for the Architecture Society. Henry spoke eloquently about the characteristics and qualities of Hadid’s work and what it is about them that so appeals to him as an aspiring architect. In the same week for the Art Society in January, cartoonist James Mellor talked about his training and career. James’ illustrations have featured in Private Eye, The Sunday Telegraph, and the Design Thinkers Academy. He is a member of the UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation and his cartoons have been exhibited at the London Cartoon Show (2019), the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival (2019) and Art 4 Africa (2018). In 2015, he live cartooned the Monte Carlo or Bust Rally for Lloyds of London. James is the author/illustrator of Drawn From History, Brexit: A Drawn out Process, Great Entrepreneurs From History and is the Honorary Historian to The Company of Entrepreneurs. It was fascinating to hear about James’ passion for James Gilray in particular, and why he considers cartoonists and satirists to be so important in society today. Later in January, Andy Wong and Boris Song (Upper Sixth) very kindly agreed to talk to the Lower Sixth about their experience of being interviewed at Cambridge. The same week, Freddie Peacock (Upper Sixth) talked about his experience as the first art scholar to progress all the way through the school and how he has found the experience. It was also an opportunity to explain how he has decided on the next stage of his creative journey and why he has chosen to apply to the art courses he has selected. For the art scholars in other year groups, this was an interesting and enlightening talk.

The Art department’s contribution to the ongoing Lockdown Film Club was the film Final Portrait (2017). Focusing on the artist Giacometti, the film is a portrait of a genius, and of a friendship between two men who are utterly different, yet increasingly bonded through a single, ever-evolving act of creativity. It is a film which shines a light on the artistic process itself, by turns exhilarating, exasperating and bewildering, questioning whether the gift of a great artist is a blessing or a curse. Following on from Lockdown Film Club’s showing of Final Portrait, Mr Croker looked at Giacometti’s working process and why he is considered such a significant 20th century artist.

At the end of January, Trent Abraham (OB), who is currently studying Illustration at Syracuse University in America, talked about his experience so far, showing examples of the work he is currently doing. Trent took us through some of the projects he has been working on while explaining the set-up in the course and where he sees his work going and his potential future career path. This talk was a reminder that boys have lots of options when they consider life after school and that the USA could be an exciting possibility.

Peter Osborne (OB 1963-68) graduated in Ireland then worked in France for some years before joining Christie’s auction house to develop an overseas Contemporary Art dealing business. He set up galleries all over the world and then joined Harlech Fine Art which acquired the company from Christie’s. He ran several UK and overseas galleries and, in 1994, bought the business from Harlech. His gallery Osborne Samuel is one of London’s best known, specialising in British modern and contemporary art and the work of Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick, in particular. Peter talked about a selection of works from the gallery and some paintings, sculpture and installations by contemporary artists in his personal collection. Peter referred to David Bomberg, Ivon Hitchens, Lynn Chadwick, Henry Moore, Marc Quinn and William Kentridge recounting some of the extraordinary stories about how he came across some of the works.

Opera singer and BBC broadcaster Peter Brathwaite talked about his project recreating Black portraits through history, a challenge originally set by the Getty Museum during the first lockdown. He has recreated a portrait every day and is now up to number 90; the recreations are artworks in themselves. Peter wanted to remind people that Black subjects do exist in portraiture and that their stories deserve to be told. Peter explained how researching his own family history had motivated him to want to find out more about the very few black figures represented in portraits of the past. This was a fascinating and thought-provoking talk.

After leaving Bedford School in 2007, Matteo Mastrandrea studied architecture at St John’s College, Cambridge from 2007 to 2010. He then spent four years making films, completing a Masters in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, Oxford while also working as an architectural assistant in London. He then went to the Royal College of Art in 2014 to complete his Architecture studies, where he has been teaching since 2016 and working for Es Devlin designing stages for popstars and theatres. For this talk, Matty explained how his career has progressed and developed starting with the paintings he was doing in his very last year at school. As he explained, his interest in film, architecture and literature have all informed what he does and it was a reminder that any creative experience is not wasted and can inform work that you do subsequently. What was obvious was just how much he is currently enjoying the work he is doing designing stage sets and when asked he chose the stage set for the opera Carmen at the Bergen Festival as a particular favourite. This was a fascinating and engaging talk.

For the last Art Society talk of the term, Charlie McCutcheon (Lower Sixth) addressed the important and controversial issue ‘Should former colonising nations return artefacts to their places of origin?’ In his articulate and well-considered presentation, Charlie considered the argument from both sides of the debate which encouraged all those listening to make up their own minds.

Some other academic updates


The Current Affairs Society

The Current Affairs Society, re-founded in January by Sami Haroon, has already met five times this term with topics as diverse as ‘Britain’s place in the world post-Brexit’ and ‘COVID-19 and its impact on the developing world’ and presentations from Sami Haroon, Orlando Williams, Oscar Calvert and Harry Hine. An organising committee has been formed (Sami Haroon, James Cutler, Oscar Calvert and now joined by Kieran Gilmour, Charlie Mumford and Harry Hine) and there is a regular turnout of between 12 and 17 boys, with 34 attendees at a discussion on India/China relations with Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor of the Economist.

 Chemistry Olympiad Results

This was carried out in January under lockdown restrictions, so well done to the boys who undertook a challenging two-hour Chemistry paper.

Gold

  • Harry Dowrick
  • Harilaos Karavaggelis
  • George Winder

Silver

  • Alexander Linney
  • Daniel Lumley-Wood
  • Rowan Bascetta-Pollitt
  • Jamie Norris
  • Owen Chean
  • Stephen Simmons
  • Florio Eriksen
  • Hugh Halsey
  • Alex Christey
  • Hugo Mathew
  • Vivaan Singh

Bronze

  • Sam Dicks
  • Agastya Mishra

Senior Physics Challenge

During lockdown in March, the Physics department ran the British Physics Olympiad Senior Physics Challenge and we had 32 Lower Sixth Physics students step up to the challenge. The competition is an opportunity for students to stretch their problem-solving skills and apply fundamental physical principles to novel situations and is designed to assess and challenge students’ ability to work at a high level.

All boys received certificates to recognise their efforts, but particular mention goes to Reuben Glenville and Alex Aellen who received gold certificates. These are awarded to students with scores in the top 15% of the 5,300 students that took part in the competition from nearly 400 schools: a fantastic achievement.  In addition, the following boys gained silver certificates:

  • Peter Moore
  • Sebastian Peacock
  • James Deardon
  • Dell Kang
  • Will Turner
  • Jonah Whiteman
  • Ciaran Kilbane
  • Anish Katechia
  • Maxwell Martin
  • Marcus Chien

Computer Science

On Saturday 20 March, two teams of boys entered the Lockheed Martin 2021 CyberQuest competition. Sixty teams from schools around the world competed against each other to find cyber security flaws in different systems through a series of tasks including ‘Hack the Box’-style challenges, stenography, social engineering and analysis of packet capture logs.

The Sixth Form team consisted of German Nikolishin, Hasnain Zaidi, Tony Zhang, Alex Aellen and James Moffat.

The GCSE team consisted of Siddarth Prabhu, Frederik Simmen, Shawn Shen and Callum Ward.

This was the first time Bedford School has entered this competition and we were delighted that the Sixth Form team came second in the UK – missing out on first place by just one point! In the overall standings against the 60 teams across the US and UK, they ranked 12th, which is an amazing achievement for their first attempt.

Cyber Security is a hugely up-and-coming industry with applications and opportunities worldwide in so many different fields. If you think about it on the most fundamental level, without experts in this field, the modern technological world as we know it would simply not operate so we are very proud of what the boys have achieved and the opportunity it opens up for them in the future.

Public Speaking

News from this week… Giles Halsey, Toby L’Estrange (both Remove) and Will Roberts (Fifth Form) competed in the regional final of the ESU Churchill Public Speaking Competition. All three did extremely well; Toby was named Best Chair, whilst Will won the Best Questioner award. They embodied that ability to look anyone in the eye, make them feel welcome and deliver thoughtful contributions that we are looking for in all our boys. Giles also did a great job in a strong field of speakers; his analysis of the arms trade was incisive, and he answered the questions put to him particularly well. We think the next round is the national Grand Final.

HM Commendations

Well done to the following boys:

Eric Breslin (Fourth Form) for superb curiosity in Music, History and English, producing (respectively) a recorded graphical score, an animated blitzkrieg task, and a scholarly essay on Shakespeare’s portrayal of the French and English courts in Henry V.

Ed Wade (Fourth Form) for his brilliantly researched presentation to the Classical Society about the arrival of the Syracusia in Egypt and Archimedes’ inventions.

Jack Harte (Remove) for his excellent independent practical demonstration of total reflection of internal laser light in water, and subsequent evaluation.

Alex Ying (Remove) for consistently producing exceptional artwork across the term, including in response to his creative writing.

Sam Blewitt (Fifth Form) for outstanding endeavour in Mathematics, completing every task in Hegarty Maths to 100%.

Cyrus Goddard (Fifth Form) for outstanding progress across his studies, receiving plaudits from every one of his subjects.

Sami Haroon (Lower Sixth) for a wonderful lecture on Immanuel Kant, displaying an in-depth and nuanced understanding of some challenging philosophical concepts.

Alex Aellen (Lower Sixth) for achieving a distinction in the Elite category of the Oxford University Computing Challenge.

Societies generally!

The list of societies who have continued to meet during this lockdown period since January is pretty remarkable and deserves scrutiny; well done to all who contributed. The societies were:

  • Art Society
  • Aviation Society
  • Chemistry Society
  • Chess Society
  • Chinese Society
  • Classical Society
  • Critical Thinking Class
  • Current Affairs Society
  • Debating Society
  • Drama Society
  • Film Studies Society
  • Geography Society
  • German & Philosophy Society
  • Ivy House Award
  • Law Society
  • Lockdown Film Club
  • Lockdown Lit
  • Medical Society
  • Physics and Engineering Society
  • Pythagoreans
  • Record Club
  • Spanish Society
  • Tech Society
  • Theology & Philosophy Society 

CCF

Lockdown through the major part of the term has meant most CCF training has been remote. Whilst this has been very ably run by our Senior NCOs, there are aspects that are impossible to learn online, so it has been great to be able to return to face-to-face training in the last weeks of the term. We were finally able to welcome our new Fourth Form recruits to the Corps, where they showed very impressive levels of turnout and enthusiasm.

Rifle Club

The short period of shooting permitted to us this term has really only allowed the boys to reacquaint themselves with shooting and blow away the cobwebs. Despite a three-month hiatus, many boys shot very impressive cards and are looking forward to getting back into competition next term. COVID-permitting, we also look to recruit our new Fourth Form shooters next term.

Cups

House Hockey

1stSt Cuthbert's and Crescent
3rdAshburnham
4thPaulo Pontine
5thBromham
6thSt Peter's

Remove Form Photography Competition

Winner: Barnaby Williams (Joy) – The photo of the robin brings me joy because it represents Christmas which is a happy time. I also love the definition in the feathers. 

Winner: Kevin Xu (new Life) – This photo was taken in a pitch inside a university. The pandemic almost vanished in China and people were able to gather around with full of joy. The photo shows boys having fun from taking free kicks and speaks of us leaving lockdowns behind and looking to the future.

Winner: Joshua Addo (Hope) – This is a picture of me and my friends on a bike ride a few weekends ago riding in the countryside.

Highly commended for their entries were Rahul Thakrar, Kevin Xu and Giles Halsey.

Charities and Community Engagement

This term we have raised over £2,200 for Red Nose Day and The Captain Tom Foundation, and many boys came up with innovative ways to raise money for charities of their choice during lockdown.

Individual houses have been running quizzes with boys and parents to raise money for a variety of charities and have adapted well to the challenges of remote fund raising. Next term we will be collecting unused devices to donate to refugees in the local area. Please have a look over Easter and bring any unused laptops, tablets and phones to the Bell Room in the first week back. Movember has recently sent three trophies to the school – one each for Henry Warren and Gurkaran Johal who raised over £8,000 between them and were in the top three individual school fundraisers, and one for everyone for the highest UK school total of £25,000. We look forward to many more charity and community-based activities in the summer term. 

HM Scarves

The first recipient has been described as one of his teachers as “an all-round superstar, who brings an unrestrained enthusiasm to all that he does and is kind and generous to all whom he meets.” He sets a fantastic example academically, not only doing four A-Levels himself, but showing almost endless generosity with his time towards others; by sharing his research and demonstrating what focussed work can bring, he has also raised expectations in his class, as others can see what can be achieved with consistent effort and application of feedback.

An active member of the Biology Society, he has given talks on:

  • Developments in plant research at Rothamstead Plant Research Laboratories, in which he related the work experience which he self-organised during his Lower Sixth holidays
  • Electroreception: How sharks hunt and catch prey. He repeated this talk for the Prep School year 7s and year 8s
  • G-Protein Coupled receptors: Finding the key to medical treatments

He was short-listed for the Talalay Science presentation competition, and took part in a whole day ‘Youth Summit’ run by the Royal Institution.

He is a perfect model of all the school values; as such, has been Deputy Head of House and Music Captain, roles always completed with care for others, calm efficiency and a smile on his face. Indeed, he has been fully involved in the musical life of the school since he arrived in the Fourth Form. A singer and a brass player, he is a member of Chapel Choir, the Brass Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra. He has been a great example to his peers and to the younger boys and, in the words of the Director of Music, “is one of the unsung heroes of the Music Department”.

Very well done to a terrific young man, Hugh Halsey.

The next winner is also a wonderful young man, who has made the very most of his time at Bedford School. He is quiet and unassuming, and by nature would steer clear of the limelight, but he has, in his own understated way, worked through some challenges along the way and achieved great things here. He has worked to a high standard, achieving all 7-9 grades at GCSE; he enjoys setting himself a challenge and taught himself to play the violin and then joined the second orchestra (even though this was something he found very hard). He loves languages and, although he dropped French at the end of the Lower Sixth, he used his knowledge of the language and that of coding to produce his EPQ artifact, which was a website that aided in the learning of languages. During the first lockdown he also taught himself Japanese.

He has a superbly focussed, analytical mind which is great at problem-solving, and over the last two years has blossomed, putting in hours of additional work with Computer Sciences projects. He took part in the Reply Challenge coding competition, the CyberQuest hacking competition and he will undoubtedly be a key player in the upcoming CodeQuest programming competition. He came into Computer Science with very limited coding experience at the start of the Lower Sixth and simply absorbs information. His final project was a review of the efficiencies of different searching algorithms. To most people this probably sounds dull, but think of this next time you do a Google search: How do the servers at Google actually search that many webpages in a fraction of a second? It takes years of dedicated research and work to get the searching algorithms and hardware to get those levels of efficiency.

I am thrilled to award a Head Master’s scarf to Hasnain Zaidi.

The last of this term’s winners has been exceptional in his time in the art department. He has participated in every available opportunity the department has offered. He has hardly missed a single art history lesson in the last two years (whenever he has been unable to attend the 4.30-6.00pm session he has attended the later 7.00-8.30pm Zoom session) and his willingness to participate and join in discussions has been much appreciated and noted. When we hosted a drawing weekend course in February 2020 with Dr Glenn Sujo, he was exemplary in looking after and hosting all the visiting delegates; the Head of Art was overwhelmed by positive comments from many of them about how impressed they were by his maturity, care and warmth. He has attended every life drawing session, which he has found particularly challenging; as someone who finds observational drawing difficult, he has not shied away from things that are difficult which again shows an impressive maturity. His work ethic has been exemplary.

However, it is not for art that this person, unusually, wins a scarf. I do not usually award a scarf to the Head of School, as that boy has his own reward, but this year has been like no other. Andy Wong has been a leader since his Prep School days in Eagle House, but this year has required something extraordinary. Quite simply, he leads by example. He has strong morals, he stands up for them, and he always sets the finest of examples; he would never ask anybody to do what he would not do himself; and he would always expect of himself the high standards that he expects of others.  In a year where leadership has not been straightforward, Andy has led with conviction, compassion, humility and clarity.  He has also been here, at school, throughout, a long way from home, totally dedicated to others, without favourites or enemies. He has been simply immense. Well done, Andy; and whilst there are still a few cold days left this year, I hope you can enjoy the scarf.

Staff

There must be a very special mention for the staff this term. The teachers have not just settled back into remote learning but taken it to another level. Their dedication has been superb. And then, of course, all staff have worked onsite, selflessly and doggedly, as well as inspiringly, in the midst of a pandemic. The last three weeks have been wonderful; but also-nerve wracking in many ways. And one must also remember the many staff who worked onsite when the pandemic was at its worst in January, to look after boys from overseas, often in their own homes, and children of key workers. It has been a magnificent team effort, well supported by all of you boys, and I am going to give you just a minute of two in your own classrooms now, not to cheer (COVID-unfriendly!), but to clap, smile and nod a silent thank-you to the teacher in front of you!

I wish you all a restful and productive break.

James Hodgson
Head Master

PS while you are here….

I would also like to mention an extraordinary lockdown for the Old Bedfordian Club. The Director of the Bedford School Association, Mr Hugh Maltby, writes the following:

If anything, our engagement has gone up rather than down during the pandemic through our thoughtful use of technology – I strongly suspect that we have reached over 2,500 members of the community, including pupils, in the last year. (Number of attendees in brackets below)

Eagle Connect has grown to over 1,500 global members. The platform provides a safe place to focus and develop business connections, with over 80% of members offering help and support in areas like CV writing, mentorship, answering industry questions and general career advice. [1,500]

With the cessation of A-Level exams last summer, we offered an online Career and Professional Skills Course to the Upper Sixth. Held over a five-week period, the sessions provided valuable insight into a myriad of different careers representing a varied selection of industries. Pupils and 20 guest speakers joined the calls from around the globe, making it an international experience.  [Upper Sixth + speakers = 140]

Today’s job market is more competitive than ever and looking for work can be a daunting prospect. Our December Careers Course aimed at young alumni addressed practical skills such as the art of networking, creating the perfect CV and preparing for that all important interview. [50 OBs + multiple views of the recordings]

Our Annual Careers Fair, now in its 15th year, normally attracts a broad range of career topics for young members of the school community to explore. This year, we went virtual. Our aim was to ensure that participants still had the opportunity to explore a variety of career options. The fair was open to schools from across Bedford Borough and had over 1,200 bookings from participants across the 56 sessions – making it our largest ever Careers Fair! With 28 careers represented, from Lawyers and Doctors to Engineers, Investment Bankers and Scientific Researchers, and many more, horizons were broadened.   [300 pupils + 58 contributors]

Our nine Interactive Online Talks across a varied list of topics attracted large audiences including the Eagle Arms, which had over 300 guests. [500+ multiple views of the recordings]

Our first ever ‘Wellbeing Week’ attracted over 170 members of the community taking part in a series of different events including yoga, mental and physical wellbeing and our first ‘cook-along’.   [170]

Head Master’s Assembly: Responsibility

The appalling murder of Sarah Everard, whose body was found last week, has led to an intense period of introspection across the country. How can this happen to a young woman on a short walk home from a friend’s house in London, seemingly without a care or an enemy in the world, until then apparently happy and trouble-free, not in any obvious danger? Are women safe anywhere any longer? What does this mean for women in the UK? Will women ever be listened to and the issues ever properly addressed? All this only a few days before International Women’s Day, when these sorts of challenges are supposed to be highlighted to the world.

The astute amongst you will notice that I have mentioned the word ‘women’ five times already in this short piece, without even once saying the word men. On the weekend, however, one of my daughters referred me to an amazing TED Talk by a man called Jackson Katz, who has been speaking the unspeakably obvious for the last decade, namely that, as the title of his TED Talk suggests: ‘Violence against women: it’s a men’s issue’. In his talk, he says this:

“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and teenage boys got girls pregnant. So you can see how this use of the passive voice has a political effect. It shifts the focus off men and boys and on to girls and women. Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic. It is passive in its construction. There is no active agent in the sentence. It is a bad thing that happens to women. It is a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ‘violence against women’, nobody is doing it to them. It just happens. Men aren’t even a part of it!”

He explains this use of the passive in a very simple way. Take the sentence; he says, “John beat Mary”. If you make that passive, it becomes “Mary was beaten by John”. Mary automatically becomes focus; John is left to the end of the sentence. You can take that one or two steps further. You can say “Mary was beaten” and leave John out altogether. Suddenly John was not even part of this. To take it further, you could say “Mary was battered” then “Mary is a battered woman” – in this last sentence, she has even lost her very identity – she is a “battered woman”; not Mary, and no mention of John. We do this, he says, all the time – do you recognise this?

Unfortunately, a lot of the media around this issue is currently dominated by the subsequent actions of the police, which in fact risks shielding the most important issue from us all. Regardless of your view on the police response at the vigil for Sarah Everard the other night (and there has been a range of opinion), it is nevertheless a fact that many women in this country feel frightened, vulnerable, at risk. I have a wife and three daughters who all say they have felt like this at times, simply walking down a street. And it is not the actions of other women that are making them feel this way. Are we, as men and boys, comfortable with that state of affairs? Surely not.

So, where does that leave us as a school? Well, we are an all-male pupil body. We have a massive role to play in putting this right, and we must play that role responsibly. We may personally feel that it is not our own fault, and that is definitely the easy answer – I’m one of the good guys; I have plenty of female friends; I’d never hurt any of them; I pay women equal respect to men; not all men are the same. Well, that may be the case; but we do all have a voice, as well – do we use that voice enough to stick up for what is right when the chips are down?  Could we challenge more directly what is going on around us, be that at parties, or when boys get together in peer groups? ‘Laddishness’, for want of a more recognisable phrase, is often encouraged in male peer groups – do we question that enough? We may well be a good guy, but it is nevertheless not easy to speak up when others are patently not being so. But, of course, it is important to do so.  Jackson Katz in his TED Talk quotes Martin Luther King: “In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – the question is, will the good guys stay silent?

When you learn on citizenship days about issues like consent, pornography, respect for women, gender equality, we, as men, and particularly as teenage boys, need to sit up and listen more than anybody else. It is vital that the next generation of men grows up to respect women properly; and to learn to speak up for that. In my introduction to Mr Gracie’s excellent assembly 10 days ago, I stated that, perhaps contrary to what you might think, International Women’s Day was as important a day as you can have in an all boys’ school. I hope that you will all remember this at your next party, or chatting with your mates on social media, or when you are talking about girls on the bus. Violence against women is a mens’ problem – and we men must commit to solving it.

Head Master’s Assembly: The Arts

“Britain’s arts industry is suffering a sudden and violent death”; thus ran a headline in The Telegraph at the beginning of July last year – and it is undeniably true that the arts industry, which brings in more than £100bn to the UK coffers each year, has had a very hard time of it during the pandemic. But to conclude, as the article did, that “we will, I fear, sit and watch it die” is to miss the point. So long as there is humanity, the arts will never die. The arts exist on the highway between the human soul and the senses; they travel to and fro, and they always will. The artist bares his soul; and we drink it into our own. Have you ever read a book, or watched a film, or seen a play that has made you laugh out loud, or cry, or feel angry, or frightened or move you in some way that you can’t explain? You know it is not ‘real’, in the sense that it cannot affect you physically, but it gets to you nevertheless. You can’t sleep afterwards, or you keep thinking about it for days, or it makes you feel helpless or perhaps suddenly hopeful. I have just listened to an excellent dramatisation on the radio of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles – neatly constructed and beautifully acted – and I almost cried at the end; after watching Schindlers’ List at the cinema, I did not want to speak to anybody for a full three hours – I felt almost ashamed to be human; watching Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the National Theatre, a play by Tom Stoppard which also featured a full orchestra playing music by André Previn, I was presented with the opposite effect as I left the theatre – it made me simply wonder at what humanity can achieve; and there have been a number of books I have read where I simply did not want the book to come to an end – it had become an intense, but alas too brief, friendship. The arts, at their best, reach inside you and leave you changed for the better. You are forced to think; to challenge your own position; to confront; and, ultimately, to feel uniquely human. I don’t think this happens to birds, or plants, or fish; but it does to us – the arts touch what it means to be human.

So, I think The Telegraph article almost a year ago could not be more wrong. We long for things which move us, and we always will; we will search for things which move us and never forget the feeling; and we respond to things which move us by wanting more. It is innate; and right now, we are hungry for it. I predict, therefore, the complete opposite; the arts will never be more vibrant than in the post-COVID period, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what humanity can come up with.

Head Master’s Assembly: Personal Responsiblity

Are you keen on making your own decisions, or would you rather somebody else made them for you? Do you think you should take responsibility for yourself and the environment around you, or do you think somebody else should bear that responsibility? Do you think you should look after others?  Or do you think other people should do that? Some of these questions may seem instinctively straightforward, but, in fact, they are not all that easy to answer when you start thinking about them. They go to the heart of the way we want to live. They also seem relevant today in the light of the pandemic. Some people would prefer to just know the risks and be allowed to manage their lives accordingly, others would prefer the Government to take a hard line and effectively do all it can to get rid of coronavirus for us. Whether you feel the Government should take complete control (and therefore, presumably, bear all the responsibility), or whether the people should be able to decide its actions (and therefore bear collective responsibility for them), highlights a fundamental distinction in politics between State and Society. The State represents what is done for us by the machinery of government, through laws, courts, taxation and public spending. Society is what we do for one another through families, friendships, communities and welfare organisations.
Over half term, I came across an article about a man called Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who wrote, after visiting in the mid-1830s, a book called Democracy in America. He warned that democracies were at risk of a completely new form of oppression. It will happen, he said, when people exist solely in and for themselves, leaving the pursuit of the common good to the Government. He wrote the following about the relationship between people and government:

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labours, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

Isn’t that interesting? He is saying that even the mildest, kindest, most caring of governments, something which he hints can also be the case for parents, or presumably for bosses of any sort, guided solely by the principles of helping people to be happy, can, in fact, become oppressive because they spare the people of all their thinking and all the trouble of living. Despite the leaders’ desire for all to be happy, by taking all the decisions, however benevolently, they take away one of the key joys of being human – or learning about personal responsibility, of making decisions, of being both right and wrong, of having free will, of failing and of being unhappy as well as of being happy. By helping too much, leaders can, in fact, render individuals helpless.

It is an interesting way to look at something which today instinctively makes sense.  Governments, leaders, parents must all balance that tricky line between making decisions for the good of the people and allowing for personal autonomy and responsibility. A pandemic might call for greater centralised decision-making; so might climate change, but none of it is likely to be helpful to mankind without people taking personal responsibility too. To do so, they need to feel part of that decision-making.  

It must be incredibly difficult to run a country – it is hard enough being a parent or running a school! – but it seems to me that, almost 200 years ago, de Toqueville was right. We are at a moment, even in one of the world’s freest democracies, when we are coming worryingly close to blaming all of our issues on the Government, rather than taking any responsibility ourselves. There is no easy answer to this, but I am happy to leave you with the problem. If, as I hope we all do, one sees the link between decision-making and bearing responsibility, I come back to my opening question: would you prefer to make your own decisions or have somebody else make them for you?

Head Master’s Final Assembly

Good morning boys, and welcome to final assembly. Before I start today, just a few words to you all to say well done. What we have been though together this term has been quite inspiring, and will become part of your life that you will never forget. For some of you, some of those memories will be very painful; for others, they will simply be very strange; but for all of us, they will be, I hope, unique and will, in some intangible way, tie us together forever, whatever happens to you later in life. For most of my generation and older, it is endlessly amazing how your past catches up with you – you constantly bump into people later in life that you started out next to. Sometimes, you will not have seen them for years, but end up making friends where they had never originally existed, on the back of shared experiences. Therefore, do try to remember this strange period of life. Remember the unusual rules, the hand gel in tents on Burnaby Road, the temperature testing as you leave the boarding house, the one way systems, the year group zones, the term with no rugby matches, Chapel services over Teams. Remember the new language you have encountered (who said languages were difficult?), words and phrases which are likely to slip back into the mist of time. Words like covidiot, zoombombing, moonshot, furlough, herd immunity, bubbles, pods and super-spreaders. But also remember the shared spirit, the camaraderie and the continual acts of kindness. We have some way to go with this virus, I am afraid, but we have seen the very best of humanity, as well as some of the awful sides. 

So, as I start out on a list of achievements for the term, and there remain many, I also say well done to the whole school for the way you have responded to this period. I am sorry that you have all had to spend at least some time online, but the spirit, good humour, sense of collegiality and collective responsibility has been special – and you have been terrific.

We start with something I have missed almost more than anything: some music… Not live this time, but news…; and then I am going to bookend this assembly with some hope – and the care you have all shown for the world around you.

We have taught 450 individual music lessons a week this term.

Music Exam Distinctions

The following boys got distinctions in the latest ABRSM practical music examinations: well done to them.

They are:

  • Gideon (Yin Chak) Chan (Fifth Form, Talbots) Double Bass Grade 6
  • Jason (Liurongjie) He (Fourth Form, Philpotts) Piano Grade 4
  • Michael Lee (Upper Sixth, Burnaby) Piano Grade 8

Hospice Project

Very well done to the boys who have been involved in the St John’s Moggerhangar Hospice Project.  Lower Sixth boys have been writing poems and making artwork for the staff there who are looking after people with life-limiting conditions. On receipt of these, Hayley Webb, the Community Fundraising Manager for St John’s Hospice, said she was thrilled by the boys’ kindness.

Personally, I have been delighted by the actions so many of you have taken to help improve the lives of others in so many little, and some big, ways. Well done to you. And further to this initiative, we are hoping we can expand this creative project next term and include local care homes too. 

Mrs Millington said, “It has been a real pleasure working with the boys on this project, and I have been blown away by their creativity. I felt immensely proud handing over their work to the hospice and it has been lovely to see the boys contributing to the wider community in such a positive way.”

Sport

Rugby

Heavy restrictions this term did not dampen the enthusiasm and commitment of the boys on the rugby field this year. Quite the opposite, they embraced new challenges and opportunities to improve skill level, game understanding and decision-making. The opportunity to play some competitive matches on Saturdays was well received and incredibly well attended, even though they were internal matches without any contact. Ready4Rugby was the game adopted for the Intra School Saturday League, as designed by the RFU to accommodate the necessary restrictions. The matches were fiercely competitive and, aside from the odd overzealous touch, always played within the spirit of the game. The boys also did well to adapt to the referees’ varying understanding and application of the rules! The year group who deserves particular praise is the Upper Sixth Form, who, with no ‘proper rugby’ in sight, could have quite easily and perhaps understandably sulked their way through their final year of rugby. They did not, they rolled their sleeves up, got stuck in and made the most of every opportunity they had; true Bedford School spirit. Well done all of you!

The coaching staff should also be commended for the way they had to adapt and deliver an atypical looking rugby programme. They did so quite beautifully, providing the boys with opportunities to enjoy their rugby experience, make good progress and compete. There have been many constructive reflections on this season, which will undoubtedly lead to the emergence of a new look rugby programme that harnesses the many positives gained from training and playing with restrictions.  Roll on autumn term 2021! 
 
Major Sports Colours for Rugby are awarded to:

  • Sam Dicks
  • Henry Warren 

Rugby Honours Caps are awarded to:

  • Tom Allen
  • Ben Barnes
  • Will Ramply
  • Alex Christey
  • Harry Constantine
  • Lewis Butterly
  • Gurkaran Johal  

Rowing

The boys involved in the Boat Club were immensely pleased to get back on the water after many hours of land training at home during lockdown. There has been a good group turning up to all the sessions available, including the 7.00am sculling ones, led by this year’s Captains of Boats, Harvey Toms and William Garner. The competition has taken the form of rowing/running biathlons, and one-on-one racing in the singles, both of which have been fiercely contested. Nine of the senior boys’ group this year have started the GB trials process, and we wish them well in the coming months as selection evolves. With a bit of luck, the spring term should see rowing taking a step closer to normality, as competitions resume, and we welcome the other age groups to the Boathouse. 

Hockey

The indoor hockey programme has continued to grow this term and over 70 boys across all year groups have taken part in the training sessions. Their attitude during the sessions has never wavered, especially as competitions were cancelled so early into the term. This term’s preparation will give the teams a competitive edge at the East Regional Championships, 2021. 

Cricket – would you believe!

Due to fantastic weather throughout much of the autumn term, we have been able to deliver a cricket programme for all years prior to half term, which helped to make up for the lack of school cricket in the summer term and also ‘blow away the cobwebs’ for many keen cricketers who do not play county cricket. Mr Brett, with the support of Old Bedfordian James Kettlebrough, has done an excellent job with the 1st XI squad, as they have not only managed to work on their technical skills outdoors, but have also been developing their one-day tactical skills on Thursday evenings.  

Fives

A surreal term for Fives, with no external fixtures. However, with the weather favourable, every session featured full courts this autumn, with regular singles and doubles tournaments within year group bubbles and with merits awarded to the winners. Year groups were safely ensconced in their designated courts playing carefully by the Rugby Fives Association’s rulebook and, as we look to the new term, we will face the official year group cups, new noticeboards, and new safety barriers. 

Minor Sports Colours for Fives are awarded to:

  •  Will Cliffe
  • Hugh Halsey

Golf  

The golf simulator has been a timely and welcome addition; it has meant that the boys in the golf squad have been able to continue their development despite course closures. Golf has also begun to reach the wider school, too, as many boys have enjoyed taking up lessons with our two professionals, Holly and Sam. 

We have only managed to play one competitive fixture, at Luffenham Heath against Uppingham in the HMC Foursomes. We won convincingly; Lawrence Jefferys and Jack Peters won 9 and 7, Alex Robins and Freddie Tucker won 8 and 6, leaving Fin Cummings & Louis Densham’s match a dead rubber and called in after 13 holes with the match all square – though they are adamant that victory would have been theirs!

Shooting

Bubbled year groups and strict cleaning protocols on the range have allowed shooting to continue in the face of COVID, and the school was able to compete in the postal BSSRA Leagues. The Autumn League of five 10-bull targets was shot by Blake Ayling, Will Garner, James Hine, Dan Lumley-Wood, James Lumley-Wood and Jamie Norris.

Our novice shooters also had an opportunity to compete in the new Tyro competition. Our entrants of Jack AldridgeWill Reddy and James Sumner shot five 5-bull targets over the term, and the prize for this competition will be awarded to the most improved shot. This term was also the introduction of shooting as a sports option for the Sixth Form and, amid all this activity, there was just enough time for Mr McCleary and Mr Lumley-Wood to shoot three 10-bull cards for the BSSRA Staff competition. The results for all of these competitions have yet to be published. Thank you to Mr McCleery and Mrs Lumley-Wood for all their help in keeping things going in very trying times. Thanks to the Lumley-Wood family, who have largely resurrected the Shooting club single-handedly, it having had a successful history as a Bedford School sport.

 Athletic Development and Wellbeing

With more than 2,500 individual visits to strength and conditioning sessions over the term, it is fair to say the commitment shown from all has been admirable. The boys have been exposed to a multitude of training stimuli focusing on strength, speed and power whilst learning the underpinning values and concepts of science-based long term athletic development. After a successful term, we are sure all the boys will continue to strive to better themselves as they continue their fitness and wellbeing journey. 

Creative Arts

Drama 

 It has been a busy term for the drama department, despite no major school productions! 

Our academic Drama Society has continued to flourish. Dylan Swain is our president and has helped coordinate the great variety of talks we have had this term. The Society started with a fascinating academic series of lectures by OBs. Logan Jones, Ethan Chappell-Mason and Jonathan Hosking all discussed their theatre journeys that started at Bedford School and gave advice on drama school auditions and university courses. In late September, Professor Paul Allain from the University of Kent lectured on the Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki, once dubbed the ‘Japanese Grotowski’. Paul Allain is Professor of Theatre and Performance and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Kent. He is predominantly a specialist in Polish theatre but has also worked on actor training as both theorist and practitioner, including most recently making 66 films for Drama Online. Tadashi Suzuki is most recognized for his rigorous actor training approach, the Suzuki method, which has been adopted worldwide. In his illustrated lecture, Professor Allain introduced Suzuki’s life and works and discussed his training methods, as well as presenting Suzuki’s extraordinary achievements in creating specially-designed theatre spaces and performance communities in rural Japan. 

Later throughout the term, we were fortunate to gain an insight into the world of film. Our drama students Sami Hundal and Max Pearson gave an excellent lecture on how they wrote and performed a film during the summer 2020 lockdown. They took the audience through how they rehearsed in different locations, and the difficulty of then finding an editor to stitch the scenes together. Mrs Keylock commended both students on their creative tenacity for undertaking such a challenging project in such unusual circumstances.

At the final drama society meeting of term, OB Jonno Davis spoke about his theatre and film career. The boys were happy to hear his advice on drama schools, the film industry and the audition process, with a particular focus on his recent role on the Amazon Prime show Hunters with Al Pacino.

Our President quoted, “This has been a resounding success as a term for the Drama Society. A subject that is so reliant on physical presence and face-to-face contact has overcome the odds and delivered some outstanding talks, broadening the boys’ further education prospects and giving the boys, myself included, great insight into the more academic side of theatre studies.”

Boycott Theatre Company has been meeting and workshopping a newly commissioned play entitled Choices. This original play tackles issues of teenage mental health and teenage issues, and the boys will continue to rehearse in the spring term before their performance to the rest of the year group one lunchtime.  

The Upper School Technical Club have worked on different shows and continue to support the department, and we wish to thank all these boys for their hard work and commitment. Anybody interested in joining the Technical Club can apply to join in January. 

Our drama scholars all performed some selected stories by OB Saki, commemorating 150 years. All performances were filmed and screened live by The Quarry theatre. 

The Matchmaker, told by Josh Cooke
When Clovis Sangrail’s mother starts interfering in Clovis’s social life, he determines the only way to distract her is be find her a new husband…

The Quest, told by Rowan Bascetta-Pollitt 
Mrs Momeby has lost her baby Erik and enlists the help of her houseguests to find him. 

The Un-Rest Cure, told by Will Roberts 
“You’ve heard of rest-cures for people who’ve broken down under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well, you’re suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you need the opposite kind of treatment.”

Filboid Studge, told by Louis Cooke 
Mark Spayley is in love. But before he can marry his beloved Leonore, he must come up with an advertising campaign for her father’s much unloved breakfast cereal brand. His solution is unusual, to say the least…

Information from The Quarry Theatre

To commemorate the 150th birthday of Old Bedfordian writer Saki (H H Munro), The Quarry Theatre, supported by Bedford School Trust, commissioned a few regular performers at The Quarry Theatre to record some of his best-known and best-loved short stories during the first lockdown. Our professional performers were joined by some of the Bedford School drama scholars as a celebration of this wonderfully savage and witty writer.

 Saki’s influence is evident in the writing of PG Wodehouse, Noel Coward and GK Chesterton among others.

We will be publishing these readings in the run up to the 150th anniversary of his birth on 18 December this year. We hope you enjoy them!

Art

This term the regular Architecture and Art Societies have been continuing remotely on Monday and Friday lunchtimes respectively. The priority with the Architecture Society has been to mix practical drawing sessions with talks; with three boys applying to UCL this year, the drawing component is crucial, with the drawing task they set always a daunting and slightly intimidating hurdle – this usually consists of a set of 30-minute drawings in response to a specific theme. In effect, this has to be passed to get an interview! So, boys have been challenged to do 20- to 30-minute drawings of a variety of buildings, views from where they are sitting followed by a group criticism looking at photos of the work on the Microsoft Teams chat. Hopefully, this has been fun as well as useful. In late September Jacques Bell (OB), who has just completed his architecture degree at Bartlett (UCL), gave an excellent and insightful talk about his application, interview and time on the degree course. For those boys applying to UCL this year, this was a very helpful talk. It has been good to see the Lower Sixth boys so keen to participate in talks this term. Charlie McCutcheon (Lower Sixth) gave a talk about ‘To what extent is architecture a display of art?’ which included Stonehenge, La Sagrada Familia and the Burj Khalifa and how the art world has influenced modern and historic architecture. Chris Sporton (Lower Sixth) talked about ‘The growth of modern tropical architecture in the face of global warming’, explaining the techniques used in modern tropical architecture, and how it can be implemented into western architecture with the challenges of climate change.

For the Art Society meetings, talks have been the main focus. Alex Edun and Henry Cudjoe (Lower Sixth) gave an excellent talk about their exciting project YBK Customs, which involves customising shoes. They talked passionately about their website and Instagram page, and explained how they started up, showing examples of shoes they have painted. Rhian John, International Officer from Norwich University of the Arts, gave a thought-provoking talk about careers in the arts and what options are out there. The objective was to remind boys that art can be more than just painting, printing and sculpture as important as they are. After leaving Bedford School, Charlie Campbell-Gray went on to study Fine Art at both the Royal Drawing School and the Glasgow School of Art. He later decided to pursue a career in the commercial art world after interning for a couple of London based art dealers; he now works at Christies, which, as you may know, is an international auction house that specialises in selling the finest works of art available to the market. Charlie specialises in Modern British Art, and he is responsible for the research and analysis of the works offered in this area. These include artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Lucien Freud, to name a few.

This term we have hosted the ARTiculation internal heat and, from the initial 13 entries, Harvey Toms, Andy Wong and Sami Shameem, all Upper Sixth, were selected for the final. Mr Finch was our adjudicator, with Sami Shameem’s authoritative and articulate presentation on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks being selected to go through to represent the school at the regional heat next term.

Our only Gilbert Lloyd lecture for this term was given remotely by William Feaver who talked about the painter Lucian Freud. William was the art critic for the Observer and is a painter, curator and author who knew Freud for 30 years and has just published his second volume about Freud’s life, The Lives of Lucian Freud: FAME 1968-2011, which has received rave reviews. The lecture provided a fascinating insight into Freud’s extraordinary life and provided plenty of material for the essays the Lower Sixth were asked to do afterwards.

Academic

Philosothon

Well done to the boys who all took part in Bedford School’s first philosothon. The philosothon is a competition where students from across the country compete in philosophical inquiries of three stimuli.

The three stimuli picked were: 

  1. If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear, does it make a sound? 
  2. Is it ever morally permissible to harvest organs from clones? 
  3. Should mandatory vaccination be necessary or does this clash with ideas of liberty and freedom prevalent in the modern world?

The debates were lively and entertaining, with particularly good arguments brought forward by both sides. Special notice goes to Krish Nair who is not actually taking philosophy but still offered a unique perspective and was instrumental in the debate.

Congratulations to:

From the Lower Sixth:

  • Daniel Bello
  • Sami Haroon  
  • Nathanael Hylton
  • Krish Nair 
  • Deimis Sukys

From the Upper Sixth:

  • Felix Lange
  • Jakob Schmitt-Habersack
  • Henry Tyrer   

Duke of Edinburgh

Many boys have continued to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh this term, and it has been impressive to see the range and variety of activities that boys are taking part in and how they have adapted to the restrictions to keep their activities going. A Bronze Assessed Expedition and a Silver Expedition took place before and during half term in the local area, and it was great to see boys out walking using their navigation skills. Hopefully, more expeditions will be able to take place in the coming months.

CCF

COVID-19 has had a major impact on the CCF this term. The normal model of NCO-led cadet training has had to give way in the face of year group bubbles, and the contingent has been effectively halved as it has been impossible to train with the girls from Bedford Girls’ School.

However, what has not changed has been the initiative, resilience and determination of the cadets. Whilst they have been unable to lead others, our NCOs have worked hard on virtual training and planning for next term. All external events and competitions have been cancelled or postponed, but our Wednesday afternoon training has continued and attendance has been excellent. The Fifth Form have pushed on with their NCO training, and many cadets have managed to shoot on the range – a particular bonus for some of the NCOs as they rarely get the chance to show off their marksmanship.

Despite a delay to starting recruit training, interest in the Corps has been at a record high, and we have even managed to issue our new recruits with their uniform in a Covid-secure way.

This term has been a radical departure from the usual, and it has been a pleasure to see how both Cadets and Officers have adapted and innovated to meet the unprecedented challenge.

House Point Net Merits

RankHouseAverage per Boy
6thBromham7.77
5thCrescent11.19
4thPaulo Pontine11.44
3rdSt Cuthbert's11.45
2ndSt Peter's11.80
1stAshburnham12.15

Cups

Group 4 Project (IB)

The winning project was ‘The dangers of scuba diving’ and the contributors were Ethan Ofusu, Marcus Gurney, Deimis Sukys, Nathan Sankersingh and Orlando Williams.

House Rugby Results

 U14 (Fourth Form):

1stSt Cuthbert's
2nd Crescent
3rdBromham
4thPaulo Pontine
5thAshburnham
6thSt Peter's

U15 (Remove Form):

1stPaulo Pontine
2nd Ashburnham
3rdSt Peter's
4thCrescent
5thSt Cuthbert's
6thBromham

U18 (Sixth Form – split year groups, as Upper Sixth did not have enough boys):

1stBromham
2nd Paulo Pontine
3rdSt Peter's
4thSt Cuthbert's
5thAshburnham and Crescent

HM Commendations (for outstanding individual pieces of work)

Well done to the following boys:

Oscar Whitcombe (Lower Sixth) for firstly winning the Arkwright Scholarship, and then subsequently going on to encourage Fifth Form pupils to apply for an Arkwright Scholarship, with an engaging presentation on Loom.

Dylan Swain (Lower Sixth) for his fantastic contribution to the extracurricular Drama and Classics Society this half term:

  • Dylan hosted a discussion for the Classical Society as a follow up for Lockdown Film Club; a fantastic consideration of the movie. Well researched and very well presented!
  • Dylan took a fascinating lecture on theatre and religion. He spoke eloquently on the inter-relationship between theatre and religion, covering Hinduism, Medieval theatre and shadow puppet theatre from the Middle East. Dylan took challenging questions for over 30 minutes and commanded the topic with intellectual curiosity and endeavour. This has been one of the best lectures this year!

David Hamel-Henn (Lower Sixth) for being so pro-active in approach to his volunteering. His ‘can do’ attitude made the most of a difficult situation on the last Wednesday afternoon of term. He productively completed the guided reading with his Y4 pupils over Teams. He came into school to pick up his reading book and went to the trouble to write a detailed report as to the progress of the pupils in his group. Well done, David!

Antonio Reale, Alfie Wilcocks and Sam Dicks (all Upper Sixth) have all given commendation worthy presentations this term, the first two boys for classics: an absolutely brilliant presentation made for the Classical Society debate on Ancient versus Modern Poetry! Well-researched and exceedingly well argued. And Sam for chemistry: Sam gave an outstanding and detail presentation on the chemistry and history of azo dyes. The presentation showed an excellent understanding of the chemistry behind the synthesis and the reasons for the colours of the dyes.

Fundraising

Despite the challenges faced this year, the Upper Sixth Mo Bros managed to make this year’s Movember campaign a real success. In a year when charities are facing difficulties in fundraising, we were delighted to be able to raise our highest ever total – £25,171 – which meant that we were top school and fourth highest team in the UK! As ever, as well as raising money for an excellent cause, Movember is about raising awareness of men’s health and working together to make a positive difference. The Mo Bros adapted to the situation by teaching all the Remove and Fifth form boys on Microsoft Teams, and also did remote assemblies in the Prep School and at Castle Newnham School. Tutor groups in younger years set their own challenges and the Fifth Form played a very successful game of Aussie rules football. The Movember video was shared far and wide, including by Movember UK who prefaced it with “The absolute legends of Bedford School have done it again..”. We have been really proud of the way that the boys have worked so well together and have made a real difference to men’s health this year. 

Other charities supported to the tune of around £3,000 this term include: The Level Trust, providing devices for local schools; St John’s Hospice; the Bobby Moore Foundation; Bedford Foodbank and Friends for Refugees. The Charities Committee, with representatives from each year group, have worked hard this term and Miss Spyropoulos would like to thank all of them, as well as the Movember team. 

Penultimately…

No new monitors or scarves for this term – I am going to give that a little more time at the start of next term.

Finally…

On behalf of you all, I know we would all like to say a massive thank-you to the staff. They are always amazing, of course, but never more so than this term. The teaching staff have had to cope very quickly with learning so many new ways of doing things: teaching online now seems almost old hat, but the individual and collective effort to get there was extraordinary; and the sharing of good practice and determination to get better every day has been equally inspiring. They have also had to adapt, like everybody else, to new places to work, new rules, extra duties and few opportunities to meet in person. The support staff have been equally inspirational, getting the whole school up and running for September in a COVID-safe way; and then keeping us all on track all term. All of these people have worked all hours in among an onsite community of 1,500 against the backdrop of a quickly spreadable virus. Remarkable all. Please do give them a round of applause at home; and don’t forget, as you are not here to say it personally this term, that a quick thank-you email or card goes a long way.

On that note, it simply leaves me to say Happy Christmas and New Year to you all; I do hope that all families find some peace, rest and happiness in the coming weeks.

 

James Hodgson
Head Master

Spitfire Solo

June 2000, and for 80-year-old Peter Walker, ex-Battle of Britain pilot, an unexpected new challenge is about to begin. 

As he re-lives past glories, losses, wartime experiences, family memories and the heady days of blue skies and battles, he searches for the answer to the biggest question so far!

Personal, charming, funny and inventive, Spitfire Solo blends theatre, music and film. Former RSC and West End actor Nicholas Collett plays a multitude of characters and recreates the Battle of Britain – on stage!

The Details

Date Sunday 13 December
Time 2.30pm (doors open 2.00pm)
Venue The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s 
Admission £12.50 
Tickets quarrytheatre.org.uk
Age suitability 13yrs+

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas will be a fun-filled evening of Christmas Jazz, hosted by a trio led by vocalist James Hudson, fresh from his sell-out 2019 Christmas show at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho. It also features trumpeter Tom Syson and pianist Joe Hill. 

The Details

Date Saturday 12 December
Time 19:30hrs (doors open 19:00hrs)
Venue The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s
Admission £15.00
Tickets quarrytheatre.org.uk
Age suitability 13yrs+

Head Master’s Assembly: Letters

Over half-term, I read a book called Written in History, by one of my wife’s 1,001 cousins, a writer called Simon Sebag-Montefiore. The book contains 100 letters from history which seem both particularly fascinating to him and also to have had particular impact on world affairs. And they are indeed fascinating. In it, you can read the letter that Hitler sent to Mussolini to reveal his motives the night before he invaded Soviet Russia; the letter from Richard the Lionheart to Saladin to negotiate the partitioning of the Holy Land during the Crusades; the letter from Pliny to Tacitus, describing the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD; a love letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn; or more recently, the letter from President Trump to Kim Jong Un cancelling their planned Singapore Summit in characteristically forceful terms. The letters range from the deeply private and highly personal, to the grand, public and diplomatic. There are, however, and perhaps understandably, very few from the post telephone or certainly post email era – i.e. your own generation – and it got me wondering if there were any future left for letters. What would be the point in writing a letter these days, popping it in the post and seeing it arrive a couple of days after any email could have done? We have come a long way, it seems, since the time when some letter writers wrote for literary, philosophical and historical purposes. Seneca, the great Roman Stoic statesman, politician, philosopher and writer, wrote a series of letters to his friend Lucilius which he clearly aimed for publication, rather than just a private communication between him and his friend; and thank goodness he did – they give us a marvellous insight into his world and the world around him at the time. Take this excerpt from one of his letters, in which he tells of his visit to the home of the great Roman commander of the past, Scipio Africanus:

“Here I am, staying at the country house which once belonged to Scipio of Africa himself. I am writing after paying my respects to his departed spirit as well as to an altar which I rather think may be the actual tomb of that great soldier… I have seen the house, which is built of squared stone blocks; the walls surrounding the park; and the towers built out on both sides of the house for purposes of defence; the well, concealed among the greenery and outbuildings, with sufficient water to provide for the needs of a whole army; and the tiny little bath, situated after the old fashioned custom in an unlit corner, our ancestors believing that the only place where one could properly have a hot bath was in the dark. It was this which started in my mind reflections that occasioned me a good deal of enjoyment as I compared Scipio’s way of life to our own. In this corner the famous “Terror of Carthage”, to whom Rome owes it that she has only once in her history been captured, used to wash his body weary from work on the farm! For he kept himself fit through toil cultivating his fields by his own labour, as was the regular way in the old days. And this was the ceiling, dingy in the extreme, under which he stood; and this the equally undistinguished paving that carried his weight. Who is there who could bear to have a bath in such surroundings nowadays? We think ourselves poorly off, living like paupers, if the walls are not ablaze with large and costly circular mirrors, if our Alexandrian marbles are not decorated with panels of Numidian marble, if the whole of their surface has not been given a decorative overlay of elaborate patterns having all the variety of fresco murals, unless the ceiling cannot be seen for glass, unless the pools into which we lower our bodies with all the strength drained out of them by lengthy periods in the sweating room are edged with Thasian marble, unless the water pours from silver taps.” Even the bath houses of former slaves, he goes on to explain, are more ornate than Scipio’s.

He writes this to his friend, and there is a moral purpose to his letter – we should live frugally, no matter how esteemed a public figure we are, no matter what riches we could draw upon. We should not be distracted by grandeur in our quest to lead a life of excellence. By publishing this letter more widely, he also tells us a story about what it was like to live in those times – and to some it may feel rather fraudulent to publish a supposedly private letter to a friend. But despite its wider publication, the choice of letter writing as a medium ensures that the reader feels drawn into an intimate relationship between Seneca and Lucilius – it is one of teacher and pupil, mutual respect, an opportunity to learn from one another, and of long-term, mature friendship. It is, in all honesty, a privilege to be allowed into their private world. To be ‘allowed in’ to an email merely involves a click in the cc box. It is far too easy. And even if you choose for that email to be for the eyes of one person only, then there is no guarantee of that either – anything you write on email can be subsequently retrieved; nothing you write on a computer is private. Twitter, of course, takes it a step further and makes that lack of privacy explicit – put something out there and be prepared for judgment. However, letter writing is different, and this is where I hope it still has a place in the world of today. It is explicitly between me and you. Private. Something that is uniquely ours. And it is, and remains, far more powerful for it. You will know this yourself, if you have ever received a handwritten letter or enveloped postcard, dropping on the doormat, addressed solely to you. There is an excitement to it, and an intimacy which simply cannot be replaced by a computer. If you want to share it, you can, but you don’t have to.

There is also a craft to letter writing – a personal note is great (it says ‘I am thinking of you’) but a well-crafted letter is simply a joy. It takes much longer to write than an email, because every word counts; what you write betrays your feelings in a way that no email can – and for that, the power to the recipient is magnified. We will never, of course, go back to letter writing as the main or sole means of written communication – we have quicker ways to communicate – but I hope you will consider it when you want to convey that personal touch just a little more intimately. Today I have three letters to write: one to a young OB who has lost his way; another to an old OB who is lonely; and a third to a parent who has lost their child, an old friend of mine, to cancer. I hope that the muse of letter writing gives me the strength and the wisdom to make a positive difference to them, by touching their lives in some small but personal way.

Head Master’s Assembly: Remembrance

Epidauros, as you probably know, is the site of one of the best preserved Ancient Greek theatres in the world.  Three years ago, when I was in Greece with my family, we had the great fortune to be close to Epidauros at the time of a performance of Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes. Along we went. The play tells the amazing story of the sons of Oedipus. When Oedipus left Thebes, he left the kingship of Thebes to his two children jointly. Polyneices was to rule for one year, then Eteocles, and then Polyneices and so on alternately until one of them died. It was fine for the first year – Polyneices ruled and happily handed over the kingship to his brother at the end of his year in charge; but at the end of the second year, Eteocles, having clearly enjoyed the power, refused to hand it back and sent Polyneices into exile. Polyneices was understandably furious, raised an army and attacked their city of Thebes. Now Thebes had seven gates, and the brothers put their best commanders in charge of attacking and defending each gate for the first six; at the seventh they placed each other, and, with the battle at its height, they came face to face, thrust their swords out and killed each other simultaneously. That was the plot of the play we saw that lovely evening in Greece. However, it is what happened next which I want to talk about briefly. There was a huge row in Thebes as to what to do with the bodies of the brothers. Ultimately, it was decreed that Eteocles, the defender, would be buried with full funeral rites, but that Polyneices, because he had attacked his own home city, would have his body thrown out into the dust outside the city walls for the birds and the beasts to devour. He would have no grave – and the new King Creon declared that he would execute anybody who dared to give Polyneices a proper burial. Antigone, their sister, and engaged to the new King Creon’s son, was so upset that her brother, Polyneices, would not have a proper burial, that she went against the king’s decree and went out to the city walls to bury him herself. She was caught; true to his word, though very reluctantly, King Creon buried alive Antigone, the fiancée of his own son.

Why do I tell you all this gruesome story today? Well, here we are two and a half thousand years later, and a proper burial means as much to us now as it did to the Ancient Greeks then. Leaving aside for now any religious aspects, there is no obvious logical reason for this – the dead are dead – but it is nevertheless a deep-seated reaction for people to want to give their loved ones a proper send-off, a final memory, to have a chance to say goodbye. We see it everywhere, very sadly, today. Amongst the most difficult Government Covid decisions must have been the one to reduce the numbers at funerals, and before that even, to disallow visits to elderly or dying relatives in care homes. It is without doubt heart-breaking for all involved; yet it is only really through the heartbreak of what is going on around us now that we can even begin to understand what the families of the 756 Old Bedfordians who were lost in the two world wars might have gone through – and indeed hundreds of other OB families who similarly lost loved ones in other conflicts around the world. The vast majority of men who died in combat never came home for their families to say goodbye to. Many of them do not have graves at all. The search for bodies after World War 1 went on deep into the 1920s – great search parties called Exhumation Companies scoured battlefields again and again to find them. It seems incredible, but some are still being found – only two years ago, 125 bodies were found entombed in a perfectly preserved German trench system from the First World War – and indeed every single year more are uncovered. More often than not, they cannot be identified.

Today, we remember every single one of them. In a moment, I will continue to read out, alphabetically, names of some of the OBs who died in World War 1, a tradition that goes back about a dozen years; we have still not got through them all. I want you to listen today not just to the names and the ages, old and young, of these fallen men, but to dwell particularly on where they died. None of them were anywhere near home and their loved ones; some of them only have approximate details; some are clustered – the sheer number who died at Ypres, for instance, is genuinely terrifying; and some are in places of which you and indeed their own families may never have heard. All the families got back was a brief telegram of condolence for a lost son, husband, father; we now have the duty, and indeed the privilege, to remember them.