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Crowning glory: remembering QE’s 450th anniversary with special artwork

After its successful unveiling at last month’s Founder’s Day, plans are being drawn up to give a permanent home to a new artwork produced by every boy in the School.

The Tudor Rose Crown, a commemorative artwork produced to mark last year’s coronation of Charles III and Queen Camilla and as part of the School’s 450th anniversary celebrations, shows the crown as it appears on QE’s logo.

It comprises some 1,305 roses – one for each pupil – with every boy having made an impression into clay that was then cast into plaster.

The artwork is currently on display in the ‘Crush Hall’ – the area in the Main Building, close to the main entrance and Reception.  It is hoped to relocate it to the Fern Building, near the Art Department, for the start of the 2024–2025 academic year, once tests to ensure the wall there can bear its weight have been completed.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This artwork is a striking visual commemoration of our 450th anniversary, made still more remarkable by the fact that every pupil had a hand in creating it. My congratulations go to the Art department on all their work in realising this vision.”

The crown from the logo is a representation of the crown on the original royal charter for the School, which was signed by Elizabeth I on 24th March 1573.

Art teacher Jeanne Nicodemus said: “Year 7 students painted the roses individually and meticulously.”

Year 12 boys then cast additional roses in red and green resin to represent the jewels in the crown.

The artwork is mounted on English oak, representing the strength and endurance of both the monarchy and the School.

The choice of wood also alludes to And Be It Known – the anthem commissioned for the School’s thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey last year, in which international composer Howard Goodall compares QE to an oak, drawing its strength ‘from ancient roots spread deep and wide’.

One further allusion is to the 49 ceramic poppies mounted high in the School’s entrance hall. These were taken from the 2014 art installation at the Tower of London commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The poppies were bought for QE by the Trustees to the Foundation of the Schools of Queen Elizabeth using funds from a bequest from the late Dennis Nelms (OE 1934–1941) and his wife, Muriel. The number represents one flower for every OE who died in 1914–18, together with one in memory of Mr Nelm’s brother, Gordon (OE 1927-1932), who died in the Second World War.

  • The making of the Tudor Rose Crown: click on the thumbnails below to view the images.

 

Podcast and visit to St Paul’s cap an exciting year of opportunity for QE’s growing band of organists

QE’s Music teachers and pupils have been reflecting in a podcast for the Royal College of Organists on a year that has seen the organ take centre-stage at the School.

The academic year began with the arrival of a Viscount Chorum 40-S digital organ, supplied to QE under a Royal College initiative to locate organs within state schools.

Since then, as well as an organ club being established at the School, there was the launch last term of a new partnership with Barnet Parish Church, with sixth-former Joel Swedensky and Year 10’s Noah Morley named as the partnership’s first Organ Scholars.

More recently, QE pupils enjoyed a special day at St Paul’s Cathedral, where they were able to play the organs, receive a masterclass from the cathedral’s Organ Education Lead, Jeremiah Stephenson, and enjoy a privileged view of evensong. While St Paul’s sometimes hosts primary schools, QE’s was the first such visit by a secondary school.

Director of Music Ruth Partington told The Organ Podcast why the School joined the RCO scheme and she explained the impact of the organ since it arrived in The Friends’ Recital Hall in the autumn. “At Queen Elizabeth’s, we have a very rich heritage and that includes a very formal Service of Nine Lessons and Carols every Christmas and, again, a very formal Founder’s Day service in June: the organ is an important part of both these services. So along with my mission to expand our orchestral instrument range and our ability to provide piano lessons and singing lessons, the organ seemed to me the next logical step.

“I think it’s made a big difference, and certainly when it arrived, there was this real buzz – ‘Ooh, what is this amazing machine that’s suddenly appeared?’ – and we had quite a few pupils coming to ask to play.”

She also outlined the additional possibilities for higher education that encouraging boys to learn the organ opens up. “Many pupils every year apply to Oxbridge to study a whole range of subjects and, again, it seems a natural progression that we encourage them not only to read Medicine, English and Music, but also to apply for choral scholarships and organ scholarships.”

The partnership with St John the Baptist Church offers the Organ Scholars rich opportunities to play regularly and gain expertise with church music. However, peripatetic organ teacher Adam Hope told the podcast that having an organ at the School brings with it additional opportunities to “interact with other genres and traditions of music that they couldn’t do in a church – it makes the organ relevant”.

The day at St Paul’s Cathedral was led by Mr Stephenson, a prize-winning graduate of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music.

It started with a demonstration of the Grand Organ (one of the largest in the country, built by Henry Willis in 1872), and the opportunity for all boys to play pieces they had prepared.

The group then visited two other instruments on the cathedral floor before going to the crypt to play another organ built in a historical style by William Drake, which is particularly suited to composers such as JS Bach – a new experience for QE’s organists.

After lunch, the group headed up to a newly installed practice organ, hidden away in the triforium (upper-level interior gallery), which is not generally accessible to the public. On their way, they saw the historic Dean’s Library, experienced a spectacular view of the cathedral from high above the West Doors, and saw Christopher Wren’s 1:25 wooden scale model of the cathedral. Mr Stephenson then gave them a masterclass on matters of technique and improvisation.

Music teacher Jas Hutchinson-Bazely said: “This was an inspiring day, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the boys. We are very grateful to everyone at St Paul’s for their generosity.”

Organ Scholar Joel added: “I really enjoyed discovering the variety of organs there, and especially getting access to see some of the inner workings of the Royal Trumpets, high above the West Doors. It was insightful learning about some of the sound physics from Mr Stephenson.”

The eight boys attending also included Joel’s fellow Organ Scholar, Noah, as well as Akein Abeysinghe, of Year 9; Adithya Ananthakrishnan, of Year 9; Kevin Mao, of Year 8; Hasan Gul, of Year 8; Zach Fernandes, of Year 8; and Gabriel Ward, of Year 7.

Four Year 12 students – Nikhil Mark, Jason Tao, Akshat Bajaj, and Harrison Lee – joined the group to attend evensong. St Paul’s had reserved seating for the QE group near to the choir, and they were given a special welcome at the beginning of the service.

  • You can listen to the podcast here. The QE segment starts at around 30 minutes. The podcast is also available on all podcasting platforms, including Apple, Spotify and Amazon Music.

 

Labour landslide nationally – but at QE, coalition government beckons!

While the country woke up on Friday to news of a Labour landslide in the General Election, at QE the political landscape looks very different, though still with scant consolation for the Conservatives.

In the School’s mock election, the Liberal Democrats emerged as easily the biggest party, with 21 of the 46 seats in QE’s parliament.

However, since he has no overall majority, the Lib Dems’ Ayaad Salahuddin has already struck a deal with Labour’s Shrey Verma, in second place, so that he can form a coalition government.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The mock election seeks to build awareness of the democratic process and get pupils engaged with campaigns, debates, polling and voting. My congratulations go to all the candidates for engaging so enthusiastically in the election process and especially to Ayaad on his victory.”

The run-up to the mock election included a hustings, where parties made their pitches and fielded questions from the audience. All the candidates were drawn from Year 12.

The boys have also been informed by visits in recent months of real politicians from all three leading parties. These were: Sir Vince Cable (former Liberal Democrat Leader and Business Secretary in the Coalition Government); Lord Michael Heseltine (former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister and long-serving Cabinet minister), and Labour’s parliamentary candidate (now new Chipping Barnet MP) Dan Tomlinson, following a previous visit from then local MP Theresa Villiers (Conservative).

Whereas in the country at large, the predictions of the exit poll proved quite accurate, at QE the story was very different: pre-election polling suggested the Conservatives would win, comfortably ahead of Labour, with the Liberal Democrats third. The actual result completely reversed this, giving the Lib Dems 21 seats, Labour 13 and the Conservatives only 7.

John Haswell, Acting Head of History & Politics, said: “The Lib Dems at QE ran a very successful social media campaign and built strong support among the younger year groups, where turnout was also higher.”

In fact, turnout among Year 7 was easily the highest, at almost 80%. Only small numbers of Year 11 cast votes, having recently completed their GCSEs, while Year 13 have already left (and no postal votes were available). One seat was allocated for each of the 46 forms in the School, excluding forms in Year 13.

In contrast to the overall School result, Year 12 gave strong backing to independent candidate Ayan Basharat.

The results were:

  • Ayaad Salahuddin – Liberal Democrats – 21 seats (45.6%)
  • Shrey Verma – Labour – 13 seats (28.3%)
  • Uday Dash – Conservatives – 7 seats (15.2%)
  • Arjun Mistry – Green Party – 3 seats (6.5%)
  • Rohan Varia – Reform Party – 1 seat (2.2%)
  • Ayan Basharat – Independent – 1 seat (2.2%)

 

Pride 2024 helps “boys develop their understanding of their place in the world today”

QE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors visited all 18 forms in Years 7–9 to lead activities and discussions during Pride Month.

They timed their visits to coincide with School Diversity Week, which QE was celebrating in partnership with LGBT+ young people’s charity, Just Like Us.

The activities, overseen by Lead Enrichment Tutor Kanak Shah and EDI Vice-Captains Andreas Angelopoulos and Uday Dash (pictured, top), included discussion of topics such as British LGBT+ South Asian Heritage Culture; Coming Out and Allyship; Intersectionality; and Sexual Orientation + Identity.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Pride is a valuable opportunity for pupils to develop their understanding of their place in the world today, and I commend our EDI ambassadors for all the hard work they put into making these celebrations a success.

“Our mission is to produce young men who are ‘confident, able and responsible’. Pride helps us advance that mission, ensuring that, as our School Plan puts it, responsible Elizabethans will ‘listen carefully to other people’s perspectives and…treat others as they would like to be treated, and thus…play their part in fostering a happy, inclusive community’.”

This year’s Pride activities at the School began in the penultimate week of June with the distribution of a PowerPoint presentation featuring suggested activities for all form tutors. The presentation included a 2023 Starbucks India ad featuring a transgender model. Boys watched this and then discussed a number of follow-up questions. Another video came from Stonewall, the UK LGBT lobbying group.

Also in the presentation a written explanation of the terms represented by the initials LGBTQIA+, while the same slide showed the flags associated with the movement, including, for example, flags for ‘Agender’, ‘Asexual’ and ‘Genderqueer’, as well as the Pride flag itself.

And there was a look at ‘LGBTQ+ role models in the public eye’, such as non-binary stylist, comedian and HIV+ activist Jonathan Van Ness (pictured).

After a rainbow ribbon-making session, the ribbons were put on sale to raise money towards inviting a Just Like Us speaker into QE next year.

The presentation also featured Akshay Shah’s winning entry in a Pride-themed computer desktop design competition. Akshay, whose colourful design is pictured, said: “Each strand represents a different gender/sexuality. They are made up of organic swirly shapes, which represents the flexible nature of Pride.” Akshay, of Year 9, depicted not only the colours of the Pride flag but also, on the white strands, “lesser-known genders/sexualities” including gynesexual, homoromantic, demiromantic, genderflux and skoliosexual.

In School Diversity Week, EDI ambassadors from Years 9, 10 & 12 led the discussions with QE’s first three year groups. Pupils were able to submit anonymous written questions in advance, with form tutors on hand to help select the most relevant and to help the ambassadors, if necessary. These sessions aimed to build understanding and to promote discussion.

 

“You’ve had the golden ticket: now shine!” Final inspiration for leavers at Valediction

Lord Simon Woolley, Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge, challenged this year’s leavers to make the world a better place when he came to QE as guest speaker for Valediction.

All of Year 13 gathered in the Shearly Hall with their parents for the ceremony – a last chance to celebrate the contribution of the Class of 2024 to Queen Elizabeth’s School and to mark the start of their new status as Old Elizabethans.

As well as presentations to all leavers and music played by the School’s senior musicians, the afternoon included a prizegiving for those who had excelled in their studies and extra-curricular activities.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This was a super afternoon, with a great atmosphere. Lord Woolley was a brilliant and charismatic guest speaker. Amusing and inspiring in his address, he then happily spent time at the afternoon tea reception speaking to the students and their families.

“Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even if, after all the miserable weather we’ve had this year, it was possibly just a little too hot and sunny for some!”

In his address, the Headmaster told the leavers: “You sit here holding the most spectacular array of university offers of any Elizabethan cohort to date. Collectively, you’ve received offers from 46 UK institutions across 187 individual courses, including from 22 of the 24 Russell Group unis. We know that this year has seen a record 62 Oxbridge offers and, perhaps even more staggeringly, 55% of you hold offers from a World Top 5 university.”

Not only did many of them, now 18, have their first opportunity to vote in the forthcoming General Election, but many more opportunities were now available to them in life more generally.

“You are always welcome at Queen Elizabeth’s and can be part of our community for as long as you like. There is a growing network, online and in person, from which you can hopefully benefit. Do keep in touch,” the Headmaster concluded.

Year 13’s Darren Lee, who was School Captain in 2023, delivered an entertaining speech: “Though some of us may look different, with growth spurts and beards, we are the same 192 who sat the entrance test and joined in Year 7….. We did it and we did it together.”

He acknowledged the facilities and extra-curricular opportunities the School provides, as well as the care of the teachers, while noting that some of the best ‘lessons’ came from spending time with each other: the experience is as much about the moments around and between lessons, as what happens within them, he said. He implored his peers to keep in touch.

The guest speaker, who is Baron Woolley of Woodford, became Principal of Homerton in October 2021 ­– the third Black person to be elected head of a college at Cambridge or Oxford. He sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. He has a focus on building consensus across political and community lines, and is passionate about educational access and supporting those with potential who are marginalised.

Lord Woolley began by celebrating the role of parents and families, asking them to stand up to be applauded by the boys. Having an 18-year-old son of his own, he identified with them, saying he knows it is not always easy, but is absolutely worth it. He celebrated the staff of the School, reminding the leavers that they turn up each day “to educate you, but also to make you shine”. They genuinely care and want you to succeed, he said.

He also called back up some individual students who had caught his attention: Darren Lee (“Our future Prime Minister!”) for his leadership and eloquent speech; Isher Jagdev (Latin prize winner) to help him with the Latin that he will need on Saturday when he conducts the graduation ceremony for Homerton undergraduates at the Senate House in Cambridge; and Nathan Woodcock (“Mr 100%”) whose perfect attendance had been noted. “To achieve change you have to be present; you have to turn up. He’s someone I’d want on my team.”

He spoke a little about his journey from a tough council estate in Leicester, where you had to learn to fight and where “the reason to go to school was to see your mates”. No one went to university from his school, but, he told the leavers: “You are going to the best universities on the planet.” Coming to Queen Elizabeth’s School was like being among the winning children in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “You’ve had the golden ticket. Not everyone gets that chance, so the question is: what are you going to do with it?

“Be the people to stand up to inequality, to help people out of poverty, to find the cure, or build something better. The Headmaster and I are not asking you to be brilliant, to share your abilities, to make an impact on the world… we are demanding it. Not everyone can be the principal or the CEO, but every one of you can do something that makes a difference.”

The music during the afternoon included a remix composed by Indrajit Datta, as well as a medley of popular hits that had formed the soundtrack to their school years, played by Indrajit’s Year 13 peers.

Music during the afternoon tea outside following the ceremony was played by the Year 8 and 9 Music Colours winners.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view the images.
Car-sharing at QE up by more than a fifth as parents enthusiastically sign up for environmental app, cutting pollution and congestion

QE parents and staff have reduced the number of low-occupancy car journeys on the school run after signing up in numbers for a new app aimed at reducing local traffic and cutting CO2 emissions.

It is only six months since the School partnered with HomeRun and launched its app with parents and staff, but already the single-family car usage rate has been cut by 9%, thanks mainly to a 22% increase in journeys shared.

HomeRun’s impact report states that QE families have thus saved some 10 tonnes of CO2 and 22,633 school run miles – equivalent to 481 mature trees or 0.9 trips around the equator.

The high level of participation – the families of 526 pupils have signed up – has unlocked a £1,000 grant to the School from HomeRun. The money is being invested into QE’s Greenpower team, which builds electric racing cars.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My thanks go to all parents and colleagues who have signed up: this is a real environmental success and a great start to our involvement with HomeRun. As a School, we seek to be good neighbours, and these figures are a ‘win’ both for us and for residents on nearby streets, where there is a reduction in both pollution and vehicle movements.

“Many of our boys already travel to QE on School coaches or on public transport, which we encourage. This app helps people with logistics and can result in reduced fuel costs for car-users, as well, of course, as improving the environment more generally.”

“I know that there is much enthusiasm about the scheme among the families of our new Year 7 intake joining us in September, so there is scope to make even greater savings in the future. I hope that even more parents from other year groups will get involved.”

The scheme seeks to promote more sustainable travel methods, in particular by helping people car-share where they feel that using public transport is not a viable option.

HomeRun collects anonymised data on school run journeys, showing how far pupils travel, what type of transport they use, and how much carbon the journey emits. The app then promotes alternatives to low-occupancy car usage for the school run such as:

  • Journey-sharing
  • Travel buddies
  • Cycling initiatives
  • Park & stride (where families living far from a school are asked to park a ten-minute walk away and then complete their journey on foot, bringing health benefits as well as reducing emissions and local congestion).

Finally, the HomeRun app creates a secure, dedicated space for people to share travel information. Those who opt in can connect with other families in their locality, since the app shows people how far away other users live, without revealing their actual address. It allows the School to update parents when boys will be ready to leave Queen’s Road outside the normal School day – after clubs and activities, for example, or when returning from a School trip.

Mr Enright welcomed the grant, which has gone to QE’s Greenpower racing team: “It is an exciting initiative, which is developing skills in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as nurturing enthusiasm for sustainable technologies among our boys.”

  • The photo of the boys in a car was taken during a trip last term to the Warner Bros studios in Leavesden, when they tried for size the Ford Anglia made to fly by Arthur Weasley in one of the Harry Potter books.
Theatre director inspires younger pupils in ‘relatable’ talk about her career triumphs and challenges

Young theatre director and writer Neetu Singh’s story drew rapt attention from Lower School boys when she visited as part of the QE Futures programme.

Still aged only 24, Neetu founded Haldi, a collective for South Asian artists, while an English Literature undergraduate at Oxford and is now studying towards a Master’s in Creative Writing at Cambridge.

Her most recent work was as Assistant Director of The Cherry Orchard, directing the Bush Company’s 14–17 Young Company at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden. The production of Chekhov’s masterpiece, which wowed the critics, finished its successful run on Saturday.

Assistant Head (Pupil Destinations) James Kane described her talk, given in a special assembly to Years 8 and 10 in the Main School Hall, as a “real highlight” of the term’s Lower School QE Futures activities. “Being from a south Asian heritage, she was able to relate to many of our students here at QE.

“Neetu spoke eloquently about the difficulties in constantly having to find work as a creative, saying that although there are many benefits, it is very stressful, particularly since she has financial responsibilities at home. Our boys really enjoyed seeing an alternative creative career prospect being executed well by someone who is young and relatable, and we will see how this impacts them in years to come when they graduate and enter the world of work.”

During her talk, she referenced working with actors Riz Ahmed and Adeel Akhtar, names many of the boys recognised from the satirical comedy film, Four Lions. Adeel played Lopakhin, one of the leading characters, in The Cherry Orchard.

She described the change from seeing these actors on screen as a child to then graduating and learning how to have the confidence to reach out to them and see if she could work with them.

Neetu’s CV as a writer and director features: being an alumna of the Squint Playwriting Award and Young Vic’s Fresh Direction Programme; assistant directing credits including Kabul Goes Pop with Brixton House, Noor with Kali Theatre and Run, Rebel with Pilot Theatre; and directing credits including Tako at the Camden People’s Theatre, Coconut at the Edinburgh Fringe, and Brown Girl Noise at the Camden Fringe.

She came to the School as part of QE Futures – a programme launched this year which aims to guide every pupil towards competitive degree-level university or apprenticeship courses and then to help them thrive both at university and beyond.

Other events organised this term by QE Futures Co-ordinator Nathan Lawson (pictured above with Neetu) included an assembly talk to Year 10 from Evangeline Addai-Gyimah, a lawyer-turned-broadcaster, about working in television. Evangeline, a Law graduate, joined Sky last year and works in sports broadcasting.

She also supported the School in February by speaking to boys at the Year 11 Careers Convention (pictured).

 

 

To die for: Vihaan impresses with his “tender, powerful” Romeo speech as QE hosts Performing Shakespeare competition

Having won QE’s internal round of the national Performing Shakespeare competition and made it through the London heats, Year 8’s Vihaan Pal then performed strongly in the regional final held at the School.

Vihaan, pictured here and  top, delivered the speech from Romeo and Juliet given by Romeo as he lay dying – giving a repeat of his performance in School, which was praised for its maturity and sensitivity.

The regional heats and final were both hosted by QE, in the Main School Hall and Friends’ Recital Hall respectively. Two boys had reached the semi-finals, Vihaan and Daiwik Khedekar, with Vihaan progressing to the regional final.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Performing Shakespeare is integral to student understanding: as we remind the boys, Shakespeare’s plays were written not to be studied in class, but performed in theatres. Learning and performing a speech requires students to make judgements about what a character is saying, and how this will affect things like their movement, their vocal tone, and their interaction with the audience, in a way which analysing in an essay is not able to.

“We were therefore delighted to host two rounds of the competition. Although Vihaan did not progress through the regional final, he did very well to make it through the semi-finals and is to be congratulated on a series of accomplished performances.

“At QE, we recognise the importance of oracy and the ability to perform in front of others as important skills that will help our boys in their later lives and careers. That is why the School has invested heavily in the new Robert Dudley Studio for drama and the spoken word, which is now nearing completion.”

All Year 8s were invited to take part in the internal round of the competition and could choose any speech from a Shakespeare play. They initially learned their speeches during the Autumn Term (alongside their studies of Macbeth).

The boys were judged not only on their physical performance and their vocalisation, but on how far their performance suited the speech, and how far their interpretation of the speech met their artistic intention.

Vihaan said: “The reason I chose my piece [Romeo’s Dying Scene from Act 5 Scene 3] is because I found it inspiring that the message is so simple, clear in its affirmation of the power of love over hate, and showing the strong loyalty Romeo had for Juliet. Although it is different from the classic booming speech with loud expressions, I felt that the acting of this piece with the sad tone, the detailed imagery, and the soft movements made me feel like I was really there.”

Their classroom teachers judged the QE boys’ initial attempts, while the judges in the School final were Kanak Shah, Extra-curricular Enrichment Lead and an English & French teacher, Head of Year 8 Andrew Collins, and Sixth Form actor Keiaron Joseph.

Ms Shah praised the work that the QE boys put into their performances. “I was amazed by the vulnerability of some of these speeches and the maturity and sensitivity with which they were delivered. These qualities were particularly obvious in the speech of our winner Vihaan, who chose Romeo’s last speech to Juliet. He conjured Juliet’s body out of thin air with his delivery of Shakespeare’s words, and his choice of a vulnerable speech was a brave one.”

Dr Collins said that the boys had shown the full range of emotions when they took to the stage, “from rallying battle cries to internal moments of anguish”. He added: “It was extremely difficult to come up with a winner; Vihaan’s portrayal of Romeo was very tender and he showed great power on the stage even when in such a compact physical form on the floor  – a very worthy winner.”

 

David Taylor (OE 1961–1966) here gives his candid account of his key role as the organiser of the 1966 fete. Although there had been occasional fetes at QE before, as it turned out, the 1966 event was to be the start of a tradition of annual fetes that continues to this day.

It was in April 1966 that I first became aware of what being “volunteered“ meant. Tim Thorpe and I were summoned to the study of Headmaster TB Edwards (TBE) in our roles as School Captain and School Lieutenant respectively. We were informed that it had been decided that a School Fete would be arranged to raise funds for the covering of the School’s open-air swimming pool. We were asked to be the organisers. It would be, he suggested, a good opportunity for us to develop our skills and enhance our record of achievement if we were to accept the role of Fete Organisers. It was clearly an honour, and therefore not to be turned down lightly, so we accepted, despite the fact we were also due to take our A-levels in June.

What we had not appreciated was that this was something of a poisoned chalice. Five years after the retirement of the legendary headmaster, Ernest Jenkins, TBE still had not totally won over the hearts and minds of the teaching staff. They had  made clear to him that fete organisation was far down their list of priorities, and it is fair to say that, with a couple of exceptions, they maintained this position.

Additionally, the swimming pool project was not popular. None could dispute the fact that improving the facilities would be of benefit. Countless classes of goosepimpled schoolboys had endured the rigours of an English summer as they shivered on the verruca-infected concrete edge fringing the water, trying to delay the moment of immersion in the icy depths. The fact that so many of us passed our Bronze Life Saving Award was a tribute to some form of inner strength not usually apparent. The problem was that the fund-raising had been started some years earlier. The initial enthusiasm had waned as the growth of the fund failed to keep up with the rise in building costs.

Blithely unaware of all the background issues, we launched the project at the start of the Summer Term. We had the target date of Saturday 23rd July. By now the principles of being “volunteered” were understood and we managed to assemble a working committee with representatives from each class. It was agreed that each class would take on responsibility  for an activity or stall.

There was a lot of haggling about who should do what. Face-in-the-Wall, Pick-a-Straw, a coconut shy, Crazy Kitchen, Bingo, bran tub, darts, hoop-la, roll-a-penny,  raffles, catering, helium balloon race, the list seemed endless. What was actually in short supply were the willing hands to run the activities. Tim Thorpe, my colleague, was a serious cricketer and Captain of the First XI, so increasingly I found more and more of my time taken up by the fete.

Gradually, however, things did start to fall into place, with the production of the fete programme emerging as one of keystones of the project.  It didn’t just publicise the activities of the day, but was crucial for fund-raising by selling advertising space to local tradespeople. In those days, Barnet High Street was blessed by some fine shops and businesses. In many cases the sons of the tradespeople had attended the School and were also suppliers of goods and services. Instead of delegating this aspect of the work, I decided that this was something I wanted to do, even producing the programme’s initial design. Fortunately Huw Purchas, the Art teacher, was one of the few staff members to agree to help in the completion of the final version.

I was then able to take the draft of the programme and start selling advertising space in the High Street. I remember the largely generous reception I received – and actually the advertising side was quite successful. In particular, I struck gold with J Robinson of the High Street Delicatessen who agreed to provide the barbecue, complete with hamburgers and two roasting pigs! After all these years, the names of the advertisers in the surviving programme [see below] bring back good memories.

What had initially seemed like a lonely endeavour became less so as more and more people stepped forward to offer help. Peter Felstead was in our year group and was the manager of a pop group, The Metronomes, and he agreed to arrange the dance in the evening. Peter went on to a successful career in the world of music. A fellow sixth-former, John Little, had a famous father, Trevor Little. He was known as The Balloon Man and he kindly offered his entertainment services.

Eventually key activities such as catering, setting up and taking down stalls, running sports and contests were covered by volunteers. The pace increased and A-levels seemed to pass in a whirl as the day of the fete approached. It was certainly a learning experience as I came to grips with booking a candy floss machine, hiring a coconut shy, and borrowing bunting from the local Scout Group. It was even decided that we should offer goldfish in bags as prizes, and so two boxes of fish and dispensing bags were duly ordered. It is wonderful what can be achieved with so little knowledge and understanding of possible consequences.

TBE was kept informed of developments at weekly progress review meetings and finally the last week arrived. A slight hiccup had been identifed, as the provider of the candy floss machine based in Berkhamsted had indicated that we would have to collect it ourselves. Without batting an eyelid, TBE turned to me, confirmed  I could drive, handed over the keys to his Bedford van, and gave me permission to go that afternoon and collect it. Accompanied by my friend, George Wormald, we set off. All went well until on the trip home I managed to dent a bumper on the van. As I returned the keys and confessed, TBE just smiled and said: “Ah well.” Not sure this would happen these days.

As the final week progressed the reality started to hit home. Where to store the coconut shy? Did we have enough coconuts? The Crazy Kitchen had seemed a good idea, but did we have sufficient supplies of chipped crockery to smash during the course of the afternoon? On the Friday, I was called to the School secretary’s office to receive a delivery of two large boxes containing goldfish, also tanks of helium and a supply of balloons and labels. What had seemed incidental details some weeks ago now emerged as major challenges.

There were several aspects to the goldfish problem. Each box contained a large clear plastic bag filled with approximately one hundred small fish. The bags were sealed and topped up with sufficient oxygen to last for two days. These bags had to be opened and the fish put into individual prize bags. Two heroes volunteered (were volunteered?) to be in charge of the fish situation. They decided that the large communal bath in the changing rooms would be the ideal venue for this operation. This appeared to solve the problem, and I was free to move on to other things.

We had been advised by the supplier of the candy floss machine that it was not quite as simple to operate as might first appear. Those who had chosen this as their activity had been given the opportunity on the Friday to practise their skills. They had anticipated unrestricted access to a tasty fair ground treat. In no time at all they were faced with the reality of how to restrict the sticky treat to the stick and not enmesh their  hands in the cobweb of pink sugar strands. The sight of an arm encased in candy floss remains vividly with me to this day. At least the practice session did give them the chance to prepare for the challenges of full production.

The day of the fete finally arrived, and, to be honest, I can remember little, as events took on their own momentum. The weather was not too bad, a typical grudging English summer’s day. The host of volunteers and a lot of goodwill made the thing happen. I managed to fail to schedule in our star entertainer, the Balloon Man, Trevor Little. Being the professional he was, once he appreciated my omission, he took charge of the entertainment section and soon had a delighted audience.

Somehow the balloons were launched for the distance race, with some form of prize having been offered for the balloon travelling the greatest distance. The operation of the helium tanks was quite a tricky task. These days some form of risk assessment would have been carried out, but those were far-off, and more innocent, times. Learning on the job proved a great way of developing skills. I have no idea of how far the winning balloon travelled, but it did prove to be a good fund-raiser.

Thank goodness there was someone used to handling cash and providing change in what quickly became a swift moving commercial whirlwind  Stall takings were logged and some form of financial control maintained. I may have developed many skills during the course of the fete experience, but this is one aspect of life I have never truly mastered. I have no record of the total sum that we actually ended up raising. [£600, according to the local newspaper report below – Ed].

At the end of the proceedings, a loyal group of helpers stayed behind to clear up the remains of the day. Just as I felt that things were coming to an honourable end, I was approached by a member of the goldfish team. My lack of experience in the goldfish department had led me to overestimate wildly possible demand. When I arrived at the changing bath, I was faced by an unopened box of goldfish. The oxygen supply was insufficient to last the weekend. We decided to fill the bath and pour in the remaining fish, leaving them to swim happily over the weekend.

This didn’t, though, solve the problem of what to do with the excess fish – the option of flushing them down the drains having been rejected after some discussion. On the Monday, form representatives were summoned and given a supply of bagged goldfish to distribute to class mates as a small ‘thank you’ from the Fete Committee. Whoever came up with that solution (not me) I am sure went on to better and greater things.

As for myself, in September 1966 I went with Voluntary Service Overseas teaching for a school year in Grenada in the West Indies. One lingering link with the fete were the regular notes from the Boy Scout Troop Leader asking for the return of the troop bunting. These notes were forwarded to me by my father, but I was unable to help. If anyone does find the bunting I would be grateful if it could be returned to the Scouts.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view the images.

 

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.