A fantastic fete, a “magnificent” Service of Thanksgiving – and even the weather chipped in to make Founder’s Day 2024 a great success

A fantastic fete, a “magnificent” Service of Thanksgiving – and even the weather chipped in to make Founder’s Day 2024 a great success

QE’s Founder’s Day 2024 brought a mix of tradition, entertainment, international food and sheer fun to Queen’s Road, with hundreds turning out for the afternoon fete.

Before that, staff and pupils at the Parish Church enjoyed an address from leading young barrister and Old Elizabethan Sam Goodman (2002–2009) .

Then it was back to the School for the traditional Roll Call and Reading of the School Chronicle in front of the Main Building, before QE’s massed musicians got the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s (FQE) fete off to a rousing start.

The day is a major fundraiser for FQE, who this year were aiming to pay for the audio-visual equipment needed for the School’s new Robert Dudley Studio. The Elizabethan community did not disappoint, smashing the £25,000 target: the current total stands at £34,590.75 – and rising! It is not too late to give: just go to the dedicated JustGiving page.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My thanks go to everyone involved for all their support in delivering a wonderful day.

“The Service of Thanksgiving was magnificent, with great music and – a new tradition for us – the recitation of the pledges written for the 450th anniversary service at Westminster Abbey last year. These remind us of the role we each play within our wider School community.

“Our guest speaker, Sam Goodman, delivered an engaging and entertaining address at the service in which he covered his career as a barrister, his time at QE, and even fitted in some practical advice for the Year 7 boys there starting out on their journey.

“There was a lovely family atmosphere on Stapylton Field throughout the afternoon fete, where there was something for everyone to enjoy. It was a tremendous collective community effort: FQE, and the parents and friends of the School who volunteer to help out, are the backbone of the fete.

“It was good to see plenty of alumni over the course of the afternoon, some with family, some with friends – all very welcome indeed.”

“We were, of course, also gratified that, contrary to expectations, the weather mostly co-operated! I’m afraid those setting up the stalls were soaked by a torrential downpour at noon, but it was dry and brightening by the time the church service ended, which meant the Roll Call went ahead outside, as planned.”

The fete remained dry until a light shower coincided with the published end time of 4.30pm.

In his address, Sam Goodman explained the role of a barrister and the sorts of cases he works on. He has chosen areas of law that interest him, such as crypto assets, environmental cases and AI. The latter is, he said, about to transform our lives, but there remain many ethical issues around bias in programming and how AI is trained to make very serious decisions. He cited the example of a driverless vehicle deciding who to hit and who to avoid in an impending collision.

He can choose to work on some cases on a pro bono basis, for example representing an environmental charity against Shell last year. But he noted that the ‘cab rank’ system meant that barristers had to take the next case in line, whatever they might think of the client, it being a central pillar of the justice system that everyone is entitled to representation.

Looking back on his time at QE, he reflected on a “brilliant” education. He said that on reaching university, he realised that he had had a better education than others whose parents may have been spending £50k a year in school fees. He recalled with fondness some of his teachers: Liam Hargadon, for Politics; David Ryan, now Deputy Head (Pastoral), for English; Anne Macdonald, now Deputy Head (Academic), for Geography; and Neil Enright (“I’m not sure whatever became of him!”).

Sam urged the young people in the congregation to take every opportunity they were afforded to get better at things. He said he knew he wanted to be a barrister from an early age, but did not like public speaking and was even reluctant to speak up in class. To build his confidence, he therefore took the LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) public-speaking examinations and then got involved in debating at QE.

His other robust advice and cautionary words for the boys included:

  • “Don’t give up too early on skills you don’t think you’ll need.” In his case, he had had no interest in carrying on with Mathematics, but now finds himself dealing with complex financial information daily, for which this would have been helpful.
  • “Don’t assume you will be brilliant at something just because you are good at other things. You need to work at everything.”
  • “Embrace exams,” since they are such a good preparation for the future.

Sam thanked his mum, who was in attendance, and stressed to the boys that they are where they are in part due to the great support they have had from families who are interested and want the best for them.

Beginning the programme of entertainment on the fete stage were musical performances from the School Choir, massed winds and strings, and then the electric guitar ensemble. The guitarists made the most of the sound system supplied by Old Elizabethan Chris Newton and School Stage!

Other stage performances during the afternoon included demonstrations of yoga, gymnastics, traditional Indian classical dance, Bollywood dance and traditional Chinese Gu Zheng, as well as Night of Ulanbaatar, a popular Mongolian folk song.

The friendly competition between the Indian and Sri Lankan food tents of previous years continued, and both the 2024 School Captain, Chanakya Seetharam, and members of staff took their turns in the ‘stocks’ (or, more accurately, the pillory).

There were stalls to suit all interests, from a coconut shy to a lucky dip, with items on sale ranging from jewellery to plants, books and toys.

Creativity was to the fore, with cakes aplenty and even some homemade and edible School ties on sale in the refreshments tent!

Away from the field, two visual attractions in Main Building proved popular – an art project and 450 in Photos, a new photographic display charting the highlights of last year’s 450th anniversary celebrations.

In addition to the proceeds from the stalls, money was raised through selling advertising space in the 44-page fete programme and from the House Music Day competition, held on the eve of Founder’s Day itself.

Prefects and volunteers stayed on to clear everything away after the fete. “The Year 12 prefect team, led by the School Captain, and the two Senior Vice-Captains, Saim Khan and Rohan Kumar, worked diligently and with great energy and humour to support the running of the day. It really could not be done without them, or the wonderful FQE volunteers, led by Fete Sub-Committee Chair Rekha Essex,” the Headmaster concluded.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view the gallery of images.