There has been a long tradition of debating at the Harpur Trust Schools. On Friday 20th April, we were delighted to welcome back many alumni from across the Harpur Trust for a reunion debate. This was to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Union Society’s Presidents’ Debate which took place on Saturday 22nd April, 1978. Also included in this reunion were many alumni who took part in the various drama productions during this period.
Following Tea in the Memorial Hall, everyone gathered in the Great Hall to take part in the anniversary debate with the motion ‘This house believes in the unfettered freedom of speech’. The speakers and officials were piped in to the tune of Highland Cathedral by Joshua Forrester (current Bedford Modern School pupil). The debate was Chaired by Chris McGinty (74-79) who also Chaired the debate in 1978. It was fascinating for all to hear some soundbites from the original debate. Daniel Moylan (former President of the Oxford Union), and Joshua Forrester spoke very eloquently for the Proposition about the need for unfettered free speech, whilst Tim Skeet (72-77) and Isobel Horsfall (current Bedford Girls’ School pupil) both spoke passionately about the importance of ensuring that there are certain limitations on what people can say. After the debate had been opened up to the floor both arguments were summarised; for the Opposition by Stephen Horvath (President-Elect of the Oxford Union) and for the Proposition by Jason George (current Bedford School pupil). The debate was very close, but the Opposition won the day. Finally, Miles Young (73-76) gave the Vote of Thanks before the recording of the original debate was presented to the School.
Afterwards, there was an opportunity for guests and students to chat before moving across to the Café Bar for a delicious three-course dinner. In his speech, the Head Master said how pleased he was to welcome everybody to the School for this very special occasion. Over dinner, all enjoyed the opportunity to catch up and share their memories of the debating societies and the various drama productions that took place in the 1970s.
On Saturday 21st April, a number of alumni from across the Harpur Trust returned to the School for a tour of the grounds, with a particular focus on the Quarry Theatre. This was then followed by lunch at the Embankment Hotel.
A big thank you should go to Shuna Mitchell (BHS 67-78) and Christopher McGinty who organised the original debate in 1978. They, along with former thespian Nigel Dawes (67-77) and Professor Nicholas O’Shaughnessy (64-72), who attended the original debate as the former-President of the Oxford Union, helped to galvanise alumni to return for this very special occasion. It was particularly good to welcome back a number of Old Bedfordians and former members of staff who had not been back to the School since the day that they left.