Ten Lower Sixth boys saw their Bedford School Independent Project (BSIP) work culminate in a Presentation Evening on Friday 17 June 2016. In front of a mixed audience of parents, teachers and academic scholars the ten finalists each spoke for fifteen minutes on their research topic. The candidates were arranged into two groups and each group winner then competed in an overall final before the winner was declared.
There was a great deal of intellectual ambition on show as presentations ranged across an array of interdisciplinary subject areas, each one taking its author ‘beyond the syllabus’ into new areas of exploration. Many boys pursued historical themes and a strong feature of this work was their ability to draw comparisons to today’s world and identify enduring legacies. Oliver Horsfall set out the contemporary political implications of the marriage system established in Tudor England, also commenting on the origins of the Union and the evolution of the institution of marriage itself. Oliver McCormack, creative in his use of ‘Prezi’ software and confident and charismatic at the lectern, spoke passionately on the life and career of Muhammad Ali, tracing his iconic status through his involvement not just in the world of sport but also in political activism and in the living of a good life. Harry Guthrie incorporated musical exerts into his talk on composer William Byrd, accompanying an excellent essay on the tightrope walked by Byrd in the divisive and dangerous world of Elizabethan England with a fluent and authoritative presentation on his musical style and influences. Logan Jones was similarly inventive in discussing three clips from the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, tracing continuities and change across the twentieth century and articulating several key points on the power of film as a means of understanding issues relating to capitalism, post-war recovery and the growth and demise of countercultural movements later in the century.
The Presentation Evening was also notable for the tremendous contribution of the Classics Department. Matthew Diemer spoke engagingly on the archaeology of death in the Roman Republic, considering what burial rites, monuments and commemorative practices tell us about the lives of citizens from across the social spectrum and tracing changes in behaviour over time. Ted Hicks introduced his audience to the poetic skill and stylistic qualities of the Roman poet Catullus, demonstrating close textual analysis and a nuanced reading of the work in light of its historical context and hidden meanings. Angus Watson chose an obscure but rewarding topic in his brief summary of Mycenaean Warfare and used images to great effect in discussing his themes, speaking fluently and without notes and then expertly handling a range of questions from the floor, his knowledge and love of subject apparent throughout. Also impressive in thinking on his feet and responding confidently to questions was Zahan Bharucha, who brought us back to the present day and tested his audience with questions on the ‘democratic deficit’ and other current preoccupations of politics writers before delivering a detailed, balanced analysis of youth participation and the arguments surrounding making voting easier and lowering the voting age. Continuing the political theme but with a strong economic and historiographical focus also, Calvin Fang sought to unpack perhaps the most complex question of the evening, asking why the franchise grew and democracy developed in the UK between 1832 and 1928 and assessing the likelihood of China following suit.
There was certainly a Humanities flavour to the evening but many excellent presentations and dissertations were delivered over the course of the year by Scientists and flying the flag at Friday’s event was Rohan Sanghera, with his expansive look at the future of medicine and what we can learn from space exploration. Rohan’s dissertation reads like a fully-fledged article, a literature review of tremendous precision and depth, and he was able to share some of his findings, and recommendations for the future, in this evaluative and reflective talk. In this and in many other presentations there was an impressive degree of analytical enquiry, critical evaluation, comparison and contextual understanding. It is of course a challenge in itself to present in such a formal environment and the boys acquitted themselves well in this regard, Logan Jones in particular demonstrating a real mastery of the medium; he was a delight to listen to.
Zahan Bharucha and Angus Watson were selected as group winners and a combined audience listened again to their presentations in a packed Memorial Hall. Zahan impressed by building on feedback received following his initial presentation and, taking command of the room, will have left no one in any doubt that young people are politically engaged and that a further extension of the franchise deserves serious consideration. Angus spoke once again with great authority and made a tremendous effort to construct a detailed set of reflections in spite of the necessary paucity of the evidence. His responses to a final round of audience questions revealed a familiarity with the literature base and the current state of thinking in the field, and in overall terms it was felt that he had been ambitious in his choice of topic and also very successful in constructing an engaging, reflective and critically sound piece that held the attention of listeners who may have known nothing of his subject prior to hearing him speak.
The adjudicators were split for a good deal of time over the final decision and in fact strong arguments were made for both presentations. In the end it came down to a weighing of the criteria for the award: (i) the level of research, including the selection and evaluation of a wide range of relevant resources; (ii) the level of critical analysis, showing an awareness of the wider literature/research base; (iii) the level of effective communication to the audience. A final decision was taken after much discussion and the winner was declared to be Angus Watson for his presentation on Mycenaean Warfare.
Many thanks to all the boys who took part for their hard work, to BSIP tutors and the staff adjudication panel of Mr Finch, Mrs Markham, Dr Calverley, Mr Herring, Mrs Harrison and Mr Graham for their efforts on the night, to Mrs Harrison and the Library team for supporting the programme and so expertly providing a platform from which our boys can attempt work of this nature, to Mr Lewis for managing an array of technological enquiries and to Mr Tighe and Mrs Elsby for facilitating the event.
BSIP Presentation Prize 2016: Summary of Results
Overall Winner: Angus Watson
Overall Runner-up: Zahan Bharucha
Highly Commended: Harry Guthrie
Highly Commended: Logan Jones
M Graham, June 2016