English Literature trip to ‘Othello’ at The Globe

On Tuesday 2 October, 6.1 English Literature students (along with a handful of 6.2s) embarked on another amazing trip. I’m beginning to learn fast there are many perks to doing this subject! Only a couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to meet Simon Armitage and now we have seen Othello with Mark Rylance at the Globe.

Mark Rylance gave a very convincing performance as Iago. Surprisingly, the actor chose to portray the malcontent with a bumbling foolishness. For me this gave Iago an even more menacing air, as if his calculated evil was lying behind a simple façade.

The atmosphere of the Globe was incredible as well. With the atmosphere of this historic theatre glowing, you could feel and trace the expressions of people with all of the shocking deaths and deceits throughout the play, as if Shakespeare could see into the future and know his play would still be captivating audiences all these years later.

This Othello, directed by Claire Von Kampen, seemed to have a lot of parts omitted. It was also interesting that Iago’s wife Emilia was portrayed as regal, and is displeased with her husband, which is not at all the impression I had had before.

However, I do not want to risk dampening a brilliant day, and this play truly had everyone on the edge of their seats:  an incredible achievement for a seven hundred year old writer.

The Globe was magnificent. Othello was enrapturing. However the same cannot be said for the bus ride home, and for London traffic; as  Shakespeare once put it: “What fresh hell is this?”

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Have you been on the Murder Hunt in the English Department?

By Lucy McIlwraith, English teacher

Last week and this, English teachers have been training blocks’ students to be detectives. We’ve all been trying out an activity called ‘Murder Hunt’ in which a whole class have to use given clues and their own organisation and discussion skills to work out Whodunnit.

Students need to work together to work out: Who was murdered, by whom, when, where, with what and why. Once they think they’ve got all the answers they can ask the teacher, who is allowed to say how many answers are correct but not which ones. The teacher gives a time limit but does not participate in the discussion or control of the room (no matter how much they want to!)

Results have been extremely interesting: Left to their own devices, classes often elect a leader and scribe, some initially talk over each other until they realise how important listening is to this task. Everyone took the task very seriously and worked well towards getting the answers.

Bedalians are a kind bunch of people and this task shows them in their element: allowing others to speak, listening, offering alternative views without conflict and working together. I’m not sure we saw any Poirots, Morses or Veras, but we did see the developing discussion skills of people who solve problems together.

Award-winning poet, playwright and novelist visits Bedales

Simon Armitage - Bedales hi-res

Simon Armitage (centre) pictured, from left to right, with Teacher of English Jen Moore and Bedales students Connie Gillies, McCauley Fischer and Michael McGuirk

By Alex Lunn, 6.1

This man had come a long way. Simon Armitage had ventured down from the depths of Huddersfield. I suspect those that came along will not remember Simon for his gruelling trip to the unknown ‘South’, but for an incredible hands-on experience with a BAFTA-winning, internationally acclaimed and captivating modern poet.

For those who visited Simon and his workshop, I’m sure they will have lots to say. Simon quickly gave the impression that we weren’t to be ‘messing around’.

After an exercise in which we had to write for a couple of minutes, non-stop and the fastest we’d ever written, we were told to pause and read our examples. They were certainly not the finished product! However this taught me a valuable lesson. Poetry and writing is raw, alive and, to quote Mr Armitage, “thought vomit”. There is time for editing (punctuation even!) later. Writing is best in its purest form.

The class also had to complete a poem. As we drifted down the lines, Simon would interject and say “make it about a surprising object in the left hand corner”. At the time, unanimously you could hear the class groan, and you could sense this was the reaction Simon wanted. Constraints help to illuminate a path of simple creativity. Writing about the seemingly dull, might just end up being the most inspirational. You just have to read Simon’s poem Poundland.

After the workshop, an ecstatic audience witnessed Simon give a charismatic and deeply inspirational reading. The theatre was alive with the sounds of words with weight and gravitas, albeit in a slightly foreign language – Northern!

Jokes aside, I’m sure the school and all that met Simon Armitage will remember the evening, just like I will remember his words.

Lyrical Ballads: exploring Somerset, Bristol and the Wye Valley

IMG_8783

From 4-7 February, 6.2 English students studying Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1798) visited Somerset, Bristol and the Wye Valley. We explored a number of sites that were important to the early Romantic poets and that were depicted throughout their poetry, and learnt about the poems’ historical and contemporary critical reception.

Below is our poetic response to the trip, which draws on the various forms and meters experimented with by Wordsworth and Coleridge. There is no “gaudiness and inane phraseology” as seen in many “modern writers” though, as Wordsworth continued, to say:

“Readers of superior judgement may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed; it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.”

By Ed’s English Set, with thanks to Ed Mason and Clare Lock for an incredible trip!

A Romantic Road Trip

How to begin? What a wonder:

We rose with the dawn one Friday morn

And headed to Kilve’s shore;

Taking in Somerset’s landscape and croissants

on our Bedales bus to the rumbling of its core.

 

On the beach we contemplated Wordsworth’sIMG_8699

‘Anecdote for Fathers’, found fossils,

And maxed out on photographs

The rock formations afforded us.

 

To Watchet, to its harbour, to its sculpture

Of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner

To coffee, cake and reading

‘Kubla Khan’ and ‘The Lime Tree Bower’.
Then arriving in Wells, the smallest city in the land,

The Good Earth provided us lunch and warmth of conversation

We met Agnes in her eighties

She is full of energy

Conversation turned to Bedales and she recognises the name

She mentions ‘riotous’ behaviour whilst chuckling into her soup.

Upon leaving we’re told to ensure we see ‘Quarter Jack’

Who, in Wells Cathedral, in his glorious mechanisation kicks

A chime from the bells each quarter hour.

 

Food filled, we ventured a cavern of vast size

The Wookey Hole.IMG_8714

Tracking the neoclassical footsteps of Alexander Pope,

the group entered an ancient Jurassic world guided by a Wookey enthusiast,

special effects enhanced tales of witches, Celts and cheeses

then out through a mirror maze and Victorian penny games

and away from the Bizarre.

 

Down the rained cobbles of the most complete medieval street in Europe,

In Wells. We entered the rib cage of the Cathedral

Following its high white bones arching upwards

To prettily painted veins of decoration,

Hearing the high notes of Wells choir rehearsing

For Handal’s Messiah in some hidden chamber.

 

Upon the hour, in the vestry we witnessed

Jack’s musical movement in all its glory

Thanking Agnes quietly.

 

Travelodge and shower

went another hour.

 

Out for food to be filled again!

Then Tesco for face masks and ice cream

Bed time. Sweet dreams.

 

We rose with the rain

Bus and breakfasted again.

To Tintern and its rustic ruinIMG_8755

Dancing in the rain drops

We frolicked among its

Battered buttresses

And tried to recreate Turner’s perspective

And Wordsworth’s words

‘with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy

We see into the life of things.’

 

Tintern Abbey to Clifton’s cave

Limboing we descended down a rocky oesophagus

To a viewing platform made from the cave’s mouth

Looking out toward the suspension bridge-

Sending us whistled complaints in the wind.

And there we read of how Coleridge struggled to define

the difference betwixt beautiful, picturesque and sublime.

 

Lunchtime.

 

Bristol – a tapas bar

Hummus, chicken, pesto, carrot and coriander

A market selling silver from Northern India

The seller selling Bristol

For the beauty of its people.

Beautiful.

 

We regrouped at the Arnofini Gallery

Watched John Akomfrah’s ‘Vertigo’ which showed

Humanity’s repeated history of atrocity

Aiming to encourage our sympathy.

A brisk walk in the rain to food

Quinoa and avocados-

Eating al-fresco in Nando’s,

To a show at the Wardrobe theatre-

‘The hours before we wake’ Prophetic and amusing;

A pill for dreaming in the 22nd century.

Bus, bed and lie-in until 9:30. Luxury.

 

We rose with the bright sky

Then drove into Glastonbury

And headed up the tor, losing ourselves in the breeze

Thinking of ‘these hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door.’

Somerset and more.

Picturesque.

 

Then to the last

Stonehenge. our final pilgrimage

paying homage to the scene where Tess lay,

the stones of ceremony and great debate.

Those stones which seem to defy man’s possibility

On nature’s wind-wild verdant vast plateau.

Sublime.

Shuttling back to the Bedales bus,

we beetled home under one grey sky

on roads where two great Romantics roamed

along the Valley of the Wye.

Exploring The Romantics

English Wordsworth trip to Bristol

Last Friday a small group of 6.2 headed to the West Country to explore the works of The Romantics, part of the A2 syllabus. On arrival in Bristol we walked across Clifton Down to the Camera Obscura where there was a brief class on the ‘Sublime, Picturesque and Beautiful’ before we headed down inside the cave for a practical illustration of the sublime – and Brunel’s magnificent engineering.

After a brief visit to the English Gothic Wills Building and City Museum, we headed to the hotel for a swift change ready for the ‘New Lyrical Ballads’ poetry reading in the regenerated docklands quarter.

AS Byatt as Chair of the Arts Council introduced the evening and compère Ian McMillan whose pithy and enthusiastic introductions to each of the 23 poets showed the huge variety of contemporary writing in English. The commission, probably the most wide-ranging and significant poetic enterprise undertaken in modern times was for established poets to ‘write back’ to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Unsurprisingly, a large number of the poets were inspired by ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ -Fleur Adcock’s harrowing depiction of a dying albatross being just one. Similarly affecting was Alice Oswald’s modern ballad to platonic love which culminated in a ‘kiss of life’ in a pub. Former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion and literati-favourite Ruth Padel also offered short poems. The Scot’s Makar, or Laureate, Liz Lochead closed the evening with a challenging poem in a distinctly vernacular mode -something Wordsworth and Coleridge would have wholeheartedly approved. Gillian Clarke, who will be speaking at Bedales this Autumn also presented and mingled during the interval.

English Wordsworth trip to Bristol 2

The following day consisted of breakfast in Chepstow, a brief look at the castle and a glance at the ballad inscribed in the pavement about a wine merchant called Dick before moving deeper inland, following Gilpin’s 18th century tour. Some time later we arrived at Tintern Abbey where we explored the ruins, now far more ordered and manicured than Dorothy and William Wordsworth’s trips in 1793 and again on revisiting in 1798. We read arguably Wordsworth’s most powerful poem, named after the iconic building and soaked in the atmosphere of the ‘sylvan Wye’ and looked on at the ‘wreathes of smoke’ through the silhouetted East window.

Thanks to Melissa Bagg who accompanied the trip, the staff at @Bristol and The Clifton Observatory who made it all possible.

By Ed Mason, Teacher of English and Day Boys’ Housemaster


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Writer in Residence: Elaine Proctor

We have been joined this week by our Writer in Residence, Elaine Proctor. Elaine is a novelist and a screen writer. She was born in South Africa and grew up highly politicized during the Anti-Apartheid movement. She began to document Black resistance to Apartheid in overtly political documentary films. Elaine went on to train in film and her work includes notable pieces such as ‘On The Wire’. She has recently published her second novel ‘The Savage Hour’ and her first novel, ‘Rhumba’ was shortlisted for the Anobii first book award in 2012. Elaine has had a very busy week meeting with our 6.1 English students and offering creative writing advice. She also ran a fantastic workshop on Tuesday evening; students have found her presence this week invaluable and we in the English department have certainly enjoyed her stimulating company. Hopefully we can invite her back to Bedales in the future.

By David Anson, Head of English


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

The importance of reading

Bedales Library interior - banner

On 15 September I gave an assembly on the importance of reading. There is a growing body of evidence which illustrates the importance of reading for pleasure, for both educational purposes as well as personal development. Evidence suggests that there is a positive relationship between reading frequency, reading enjoyment and attainment. Reading enjoyment has been reported as playing a greater role in a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status and this finding formed the premise of my assembly to encourage our students to GET READING. Evidence also suggests that children are more likely to read if they see their parents and other adults around them doing so. With this in mind I invited a number of teachers to share some of their favourite books with the school; Al McConville, Benedict Haydn-Davies and Susan Robson all offered their enthusiasm and I was only too disappointed not to be able to take up the keen offers of other members of staff who wanted to share their love of reading. With the advent of Firefly I will be setting up a page to inspire reading and to offer reading lists from departments and members of staff. In conjunction with the Library and Jane Kirby, I am also setting up book carousels in the boarding houses to complement the excellent collections Steephurst and Boys’ Flat already have, to help further encourage pupils to share the joy of reading when they are on flat or in the day house. There has been a very exciting response to the assembly and I have been impressed by a number of students who want to set up book clubs, either on flat or in their tutor groups, hopefully this will continue to go from strength to strength.

By David Anson, Head of English


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.