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Critic critically acclaimed! Suryansh named among winners of New York Times competition

A sixth-former’s review of Balenciaga’s autumn collection has been named among the winners in a New York Times writing contest.

Suryansh Sarangi was selected as one of nine overall winners – and one of only two from outside the US – after penning a review that commented not only on the clothes, but on the collection’s relationship to the American dream.

He drew inspiration from his interest in fashion, but also from his A-level English classes, and especially American literature lessons on F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Full marks to Suryansh on this outstanding success! Having discovered the competition for himself, he then submitted an entry that was at once lively, original and thoughtful.”

There were more than 3,200 entries to the NYT’s Ninth Annual Student Review Contest. Entrants, who had to be school pupils aged 13 to 19, were invited to write original reviews of up to 450 words on any kind of creative expression covered by the Times, one of the world’s most influential newspapers.

In his review, Suryansh began by noting the importance of the show’s setting – “Draped in the golden Californian sun on a pristine neighborhood boulevard punctuated with postcard-perfect palm trees, everything about the Balenciaga fall 2024 collection just screams Los Angeles.”

The city, he noted, carried special significance for Balenciaga’s creative director,  Demna Gvasalia: “Having grown up in a dreary ‘post-Soviet vacuum’, Demna himself states that the very culture he idolized as the perfect, colorful life was that of L.A.”

The collection, with its “relaxed yet stylish outfits” and its mixed messages – “Perhaps celebrities are just like us. But are they?” – was, Suryansh concluded, “an ironic highlighting of inequality…nothing more than a testament to the modern American dream, an illusory ideal we can only chase, yet never achieve”.

Suryansh, who is in Year 12, found out about the competition through a friend he made at a US universities fair. “I was compelled by the immense creative scope it allowed entrants. I realised this was a great opportunity to express my passions about my non-academic interests: this competition gave me a free licence to write about whatever I wanted

“Social commentary through the media of fashion piqued my interest and I was drawn to brands which did this, like Balenciaga. Balenciaga’s philosophy is to make every piece a work of art, something that transcends mere fashion and becomes a statement of expression, emotion and creativity.

“I did not have to research much; I just had to watch the fashion show on YouTube, and from there, it was just about interpreting it and analysing it beyond its face value.

“When doing The Great Gatsby, we talked and learned a lot about the American dream, with it being a key focus of the novel, and I was able to incorporate this into my review.”

Suryansh writes for The Econobethan and The Arabella – pupil-run magazines at QE – and recently led a creative writing workshop at the School.

He recommends that anyone interested in fashion’s role in social commentary should look into:

  • Raf Simons Fall 2001 Show, Riot! Riot! Riot!
  • Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2010 collection, Plato’s Atlantis
  • The work of other designers and fashion houses such as Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto and Jean Paul Gaultier.

As his prize, Suryansh’s review has now been published, along with those of the other eight winners, on the NYT’s educational resource website, The Learning Network.


How did we get here? The Arabella magazine explores 450th anniversary theme

QE’s pupil-run arts magazine, The Arabella, looks both to the past and the future in a special edition for the School’s 450th anniversary year.

The 44-page publication features 26 pieces of poetry, prose, and art, many of them inspired by its anniversary-related theme, How did we get here? The approach, looking both backward and forward, mirrors that of the School’s anniversary celebrations on Founder’s Day which included a display of the School’s 1573 Royal Charter alongside the burying of a time capsule intended for the pupils of 2073, when QE will mark its 500th anniversary. Work on the magazine began last academic year, but it has only now been published.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “The ninth edition of The Arabella has been worth the wait: with its expanded contents and an eclectic mix of topics and styles, it is a great demonstration of the fruits of free-thinking scholarship and academic curiosity.”

The magazine includes contributions from boys throughout the School, although boys from the current Years 8 and 9 feature especially heavily.

In his introduction, one of the editors, Chanakya Seetharam, of Year 12, addresses his fellow QE pupils: “Just as the [450th anniversary thanksgiving] service at Westminster Abbey in the Spring Term so well captured, this is as much cause to look back with an inquisitive eye into the past as to look forward to the future. It is this spirit of investigation that is the kernel of this edition, and which was so well taken up by you….

“You are what keeps The Arabella alive. This is a magazine by you and for you. We hope you will find all of the work here thoroughly insightful, interesting, and enjoyable, and here’s to a great next edition!”

The poetry section is highly varied, with contributions ranging from Year 9 boy Yingqiao Zhao’s piece about the moon – which is in the shape of a crescent and has key words picked out in different colours – to the nine-stanza rhyming French poem, La Mort de L’Ancien, composed by Year 13’s Aayush Backory. The poetry section closes with Nikhil Francine, of Year 9, addressing the anniversary directly with a poem entitled Thriving from Ancient Roots – the School’s slogan for the anniversary year.

The creative writing pages included Year 9 pupil Raaghav Dhanasekaran predicting a dystopian future amid huge hurricanes caused by climate change.

The music writing section on the other hand looks mostly to the past, from Nikhil Francine’s essay on A brief history of song to Moneshan Rathaparan and Eshwara Masina, both of Year 8, jointly exploring The Enduring Influence of Classical and Baroque Music on Contemporary Culture.

Year 12 student Akheel Kale, from the editorial team, praises the quality of Year 13 pupil Ashish Yeruva’s essay on Justice for Ukraine: How to Put Russian Leaders on Trial Using International Law. Ashish’s contribution had inspired the team to open a current affairs section in the magazine and to invite further such submissions in the future, Akheel says.

Similarly, the magazine has a new section on Science, featuring Year 10 boy Zain Syed’s submission of an extensive flow chart setting out A Natural History of the Earth.

Interspersed throughout The Arabella are artworks exploring themes including Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity; Dystopian Landscape; and Art Inspired by Music. Shown in this news story, from top to bottom, are:

  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Sushan Naresh, Year 10 (main image)
  • Dystopian Landscape, by Krishav Sundar Rajan, Year 9
  • Art Inspired by Music, by Galinghan Balamurugan, Year 8
  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Ayush Saha, Year 10

The magazine is named after Arabella Stuart, a descendant of Henry VII and sixth in line to the throne, who fell foul of King James I when in 1610 she secretly married another potential heir to the throne, William Seymore. Her husband was sent to the Tower of London, while Arabella was committed to the care of the Bishop of Durham, but fell ill in Barnet en route. She stayed for some months at the home of QE Governor Thomas Conyers, her spiritual needs attended to by another Governor, Rev Matthias Milward, who was subsequently appointed Master (Headmaster) of the School.

  • For anyone with access to the School’s eQE portal, The Arabella is available to read here.
“Atmospheric, witty and truthful”: QE writer’s play among the best in National Theatre competition

An aspiring QE playwright’s coming-of-age story set in India was selected as one the best nine entries in a National Theatre writing competition.

As one of the shortlisted plays in the New Views competition, Year 10 pupil Adithya Raghuraman’s Train of Thought was given a rehearsed reading by professional actors at the National Theatre in London.

He had written the play during this School year, supported by a mentor playwright – in his case, Andrew Muir, a critically acclaimed writer for stage and screen – who visited QE to deliver workshops and to give Adithya personalised feedback and guidance.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Many congratulations to Adithya for a wonderful achievement. For someone as young as him to produce such a powerful piece of writing is truly astonishing – and for a student to have their work performed at the National Theatre is unprecedented in the School’s history.

“The play itself is an emotional tour de force – Adithya has a wonderful talent of being able to switch tone, moving from the comedic to the poignant to the reflective and finally to the uplifting. There is also great foresight in anticipating the transition from page to stage – when Adithya’s words were given life by a professional adult cast, it really allowed his talent at writing character and tone to be showcased”.

The New Views competition invites pupils aged 14-18 across the UK to submit 30-minute plays.  More than 1,000 young people took part nationally this year, with just under 500 plays finally submitted.

“The competition gives students an opportunity to tell stories that are personal to them. From an English department point of view, it gives our QE students the opportunity to write creatively for a real purpose and a real audience, adding enormous value to their wider English education,” said Mr Hyland.

Before the actors gave their reading in front of an audience at the National Theatre, Adithya spent some time meeting with the director and producer, as well as attending a rehearsal with the actors.

His play was a philosophical and reflective story about a British-Indian teenager taking a train ride across southern India after his mother’s death, and the relationship he developed both with his father and with the country of India.

Adithya said: “Being shortlisted for New Views was an unforgettable experience. From the exhilarating moment Mr Hyland called me into his office to tell me the great news, to being able to watch a plethora of talented actors display awe-inspiring emotion as they completed the rehearsed reading, the entire process never failed to be exciting and rewarding.”

Writing the play had been “a fascinating and inspiring journey”, he said, with the final work and his success in the competition making it all well worth the effort.

“An important lesson I learnt was the importance of perspective – my perspective of the characters I had written about; my teacher’s perspective; the views of my director, and the expression of the actors as they empathised with Ashok [the main character] and stepped in the shoes of the characters they had to play.”

“The latter is a difficult task, but the way the actors embodied everything I had intended when writing the play, as well as adding in their own humour and incredible skill when portraying the characters, was something I will never forget.

Thanking Mr Hyland and the competition team for the opportunity, he added: “I look forward to writing more plays and stepping out of my comfort zone in English again in the future.”

Adithya’s mentor, Andrew Muir, has had plays produced throughout the UK and in recent years his work has been performed at the National Theatre’s Connections festival, at Soho Theatre and on the BBC. His assessment of Adithya’s play described it as “a joyous road trip of a story, in which both father and son are brought back together again following the devastating loss of their wife and mother respectively.

“A wonderful train journey from Mumbai to Chennai gives the boy, our central protagonist, an opportunity to get a better understanding about his homeland – the smells, the chaos, the colours and the language. The writer takes us on this journey with skill and delicacy, and…conveys the atmosphere of India with such depth that at times I felt that I was on that same train as Ashok, experiencing all those wonders of India for the first time also. Strong story-telling, atmospheric, witty and truthful. A young imagination at play here and it’s very good. Well done.”

Our rich heritage open to all: proudly presenting QE Collections

Eighty-nine people joined a special Zoom event held to present QE Collections – Queen Elizabeth’s School’s new fully digitised online set of archives relating to the School and the Barnet area.

Guests at the public evening ‘town hall’ event, including Old Elizabethans and others with an interest in local history, were given a virtual guided tour and shown how to get the best out of the extensive high-quality online assets spanning more than four centuries.

Headmaster Neil Enright and QE’s Curator of Collections Surya Bowyer (OE 2007–2014) explained that the School held a variety of historic material and was keen to make it accessible to everyone. QE Collections is therefore offered online free-of-charge for all to enjoy.

In his address to the guests, Mr Enright pointed out that QE has been part of the Barnet community ever since its foundation by royal charter in 1573. “QE Collections therefore includes three different sorts of histories, nevertheless intertwined. These are the history of the School itself; the history of the local area, as viewed through the lens of the School; and the shared social histories that connect us.

“I am very excited that we are now able to share QE Collections with a wider audience.”

He paid tribute to the key role played by the late Richard Newton (OE 1956–1964), who promoted digitising the School’s archives and making them freely available to all, and also provided generous funding.

“It is certain that without his support, we would not have been able to launch this project – one that will be part of his legacy to the Elizabethan community,” Mr Enright said.

Mr Bowyer, who has played a central role in developing the platform and curating the material uploaded so far, pointed the guests towards a number of current highlights of QE Collections:

“We are constantly putting new material online, so the highlights would be different if I did this event in a few months’ time, or even next month,” Mr Bowyer added.

The event included tips and tricks for getting the best out of QE Collections, together with an explanation of how the various collections are organised, with ‘access points’ provided for the digitised objects – for example: People & Organisations; Subjects; Places.

All printed text in digitised objects is almost invariably fully searchable. Anyone wishing to search for a full name or phrase should put it in double speech marks in the search box, Mr Bowyer said.

Work continues on making archival material online. “Among several exciting projects that are currently mid-digitisation are the QE Governors’ minute books going all the way back to the earliest we have in 1587. The first is available now, with more coming soon.

“There is also our 20th Century History Project, which recreates life at the School during the last century through photographs, written records and ephemera. Lots of material from the 1940s to 1980s is already available and, again, more is coming soon.”

QE Collections was given a ‘soft launch’ three months ago. Since then, there have been more than 1,300 users from over 35 countries, with the Group Photographs and Everyday Life (Photographs) collections proving the most popular so far.

QE Collections uses professional digitisers to ensure its digitised files are of very high quality and has employed an industry-standard digital preservation system to ensure long-term availability for these digitised files, Mr Bowyer said, adding that while digital files are excellent for improving access, they are harder to preserve than physical objects, as digital storage media can become obsolete and data can become corrupted.

“All this work takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. If you like the work we are doing and are in a position where you can consider supporting this work, please consider contributing to our Digital Fund, which supports QE Collections.”

Musical genius – or merely the right man, in the right place at the right time?

The portentous ‘dun dun dun duuun’ opening notes of his 5th Symphony are recognised everywhere, but just what is it that accounts for the enduring popularity of Ludwig van Beethoven?

That is the question which Surya Bowyer, QE’s Head of Library Services, examines in the latest episode of The Queen’s Library Roundness podcast.

He drafted in some local expert help – Ruth Partington, the School’s Director of Music, and Caroline Grint, Music teacher – in his exploration of the significance of the iconic German pianist and composer in the musical canon.

“2020 marked the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in Bonn,” says Mr Bowyer. “Around the world – from London to Melbourne and Shanghai to Sao Paolo – events which had been planned over many months, and, indeed, years, in concert halls and music venues to celebrate his works, in that symbolic year, had to be cancelled.”

Apart from the Nokia ringtone, (Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega) those opening four notes of ‘Beethoven’s 5th’ – which form the title of the podcast – are probably the best known musical “motif” of all among the general public. And this is attributable, not to concert-going necessarily, but to their ubiquitous use in advertising and films. Yet would this suffice to explain the exceptionally high regard in which Beethoven is still held?

Miss Partington and Miss Grint discuss Beethoven’s acknowledged legacy as the composer whose composition spanned the transition from the classical period to the romantic era, and question whether he was truly ground-breaking in the way he is often presented.

The podcast covers the difference expectations held of composers such as Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who were court composers, and Beethoven who, while receiving a stipend, had more freedom. They explore the effect this had in a number of ways, including the duration of his symphonies.

The discussion ranges over whether Beethoven was a musical genius, or a talented musician and composer who happened to be about at the right time, with a rising middle-class who could afford to attend music concerts and the emergence of music critics. It also touches on whether Beethoven would recognise his own work as it is played now on modern instruments.

“The way in which Beethoven and his music are written about leads us to listening to him using the terms that are ascribed to him,” says Miss Grint. “Because we expect universality, we find it, we read the meaning into it. Instrumental music is seen as having universality because it doesn’t tell a story using words, it’s more metaphysical.”

Miss Partington believes Beethoven’s continuing popularity lies in the powerful emotions he evokes. “I’m not a fan of working-out meaning,” she says. She believes there is a mystical element to music, and that it should not be pigeon-holed.

But whether a genius, or a man in the right place at the right time, there seems little doubt his legacy will endure, from the ‘low brow’ – car advertisements, for example – to the distinctly ‘high brow’, such as performances at top music venues, the three concluded.

  • The Dun, dun, dun, duun episode of the Roundness podcast is available from the Library pages of the eQE online platform and from normal podcast providers, including Acast, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Consider the pupfish!

The latest episode of the Roundness podcast series from The Queen’s Library highlights the grave unintended consequences that can arise from man-made changes to the environment.

Podcaster Surya Bowyer, QE’s Head of Library Services, warns that we disregard the “interconnectedness of the world’s natural systems” at our peril in a 36-minute episode that features a variety of expert voices and spans the globe, from Egypt and Ethiopia to France and Spain, and from the Amazon to the US.

But he begins the episode in one particular location, inviting his listeners to consider the extraordinary case of the pupfish – in fact, of one specific pupfish whom he names ‘Steve’. Steve, he explains, is a Sonoyta pupfish, a rare and threatened breed that is specially adapted to cope with the harsh conditions – extreme heat, very salty water and lack of oxygen – found in the waterways of the Sonoran desert straddling Mexico and Arizona. It is thought to live in an area covering only around four square miles.

“What Steve ‘knows’ is that during the breeding season, his scales turn an intense bright blue in an attempt to try and woo Linda, Brenda and the other pupfish,” Mr Bowyer says.

Understanding Steve’s remarkable metabolism – including his ability to produce alcohol – could hold benefits for medical science, Mr Bowyer says. “By considering the pupfish we could gain a better understanding of cancer cells.”

Yet, he says, the Sonoyta pupfish’s very existence is threatened by the damage done to the environment by the construction of the border wall ordered by former US President Donald Trump.

Mr Bowyer then looks at the negative effects that overlooking environmental issues has had across the world and throughout history. He recounts the fatal outcome for one 12th-century French nobleman poisoned by another type of fish living in a polluted environment.

And he reflects on the changes in economics – a discipline which used to characterise environmental concerns as mere ‘negative externalities’, but is now increasingly understanding that the unexpected knock-on effects of pollution make it impossible to regard environmental factors in isolation.

The Consider the pupfish episode of the Roundness podcast is available from the Library pages of the eQE online platform and from normal podcast providers, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

The poet, the prince and the podcast (and a proposal, too)

George Mpanga is among only a handful of voices to be heard on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s widely publicised first podcast, which has been issued following the royal couple’s deal with Spotify.

For the first episode of Archewell Audio, Megan explains, she and Prince Harry decided to enlist “a few friends and a lot of other folks” who “we admire, and get their thoughts on what they learned from 2020”. George (OE 2002-2009), whose relationship with Prince Harry stems from his long-standing role as an ambassador for one of the prince’s charitable foundations, joined singer Sir Elton John, American politician Stacey Abrams, presenter James Corden, and tennis player Naomi Osaka in making his contribution.

The invitation from Harry and Meghan capped a momentous year in which George the Poet has rarely been far from the headlines: he has frequently been called upon to comment and reflect on both the Covid-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter protests.

In the past few days, he also had a big announcement of his own to make: through his Instagram account, George revealed that he had become engaged to Sandra Makumbi, who is Head of Operations at his company, George the Poet Limited. “I proposed to my best friend and she said YES!” he wrote. “Glory to God for this fairy-tale engagement… you’ve made me laugh every day since school, you’ve always uplifted and protected me, now all I want to do is take care of you for the rest of my life.”

During his recording for the royals’ podcast made earlier in the month, George, in fact, revealed his plans to get engaged  – “I would love to give a shout-out to my beautiful fiancée, Sandra” – and was duly congratulated by both the Sussexes.

In line with the royal couple’s brief, George reflected on 2020.  “This year to cope with all the change, I just took more pride in the little things – I had a deeper appreciation for going out for a walk, being able to see my loved ones, and thinking about these things consciously really opened my eyes to what was right in front of me.

“One of the hardest moments for me this year was when a loved one, who was pregnant at the time, was hospitalised with Covid and forced into an early delivery. Fortunately, she made it, the baby made it too; they are now happy and healthy, but that was quite a scary moment.”

He recalled the joy of a family birthday: “My little brother turned 23 this year. That was one of those moments: we were all on the call, six of us kids and that was one of the first times when we all got to really ‘touch base’ and it was just fun…it was like being in the room as kids again, even though we’re in different rooms as grown-ups now. That was beautiful.”

George’s family have often been uppermost in his mind in his public appearances during the year. In April, when the UK was in the grip of the first coronavirus lockdown, he paid tribute to NHS workers “like my mum” in the short poem which he performed at the opening of BBC One’s coverage of the international One World: Together at Home concert.

The following month, his acclaimed podcast,  Have You Heard George’s podcast?, was nominated for, and subsequently won, a Peabody Award – one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious media prizes. His was the first British podcast ever to receive a nomination for a Peabody Award.

In June, with the Black Lives Matter protests at their height, George was repeatedly sought out for his views by the media, appearing as a panellist on BBC One’s Question Time , an interviewee on the corporation’s Newsnight and as a guest at the online MOBO awards, to name only three examples.

His links with Prince Harry date back some years. The prince’s Sentebale charity supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana. George had seen at close-hand Harry’s warmth and compassion in meeting the children helped by Sentebale and became an ambassador for the charity in 2015.

When the royal engagement was announced, George was one of the commentators interviewed by the BBC for an insider’s perspective. He was then chosen by the BBC to perform his poem , The Beauty of Union, to introduce coverage of the 2018 wedding of Harry and Meghan and was therefore seen by a global TV audience numbering hundreds of millions.




Innovative approach by The Queen’s Library helps boys through a difficult chapter

Although day-to-day use of The Queen’s Library is currently restricted to the Sixth Form ‘bubble’, other QE boys are not missing out, thanks to an innovative ‘Click & Collect’ service.

All younger boys – from Years 7 to 11 – can easily access the reading material they want by first making a reservation on the School’s eQE online platform, and then coming along in their year group’s time slot to pick up their books. This is done from a designated area just outside the Library. They can use the same time slot to return books, which are then quarantined in a sealed container.

The service is proving popular, with the number of book loans – not including e-books, which are available on another platform – already well into four figures.

Head of Library Services Surya Bowyer said that introducing the Click & Collect service had necessitated some big changes in the Library, but he added: ““All in all, The Queen’s Library may have fewer people physically in it at the moment, but that’s not stopping us from continuing to provide resources to the whole School.

“It is great to be able to provide boys with access to the physical books again. And it is encouraging to see so many boys taking out books, even though the borrowing process is a bit more complicated this year.

“The new arrangements have also only further underlined the importance of online resources, and have motivated us to begin offering e-books as well as physical books. Through a separate new platform, we allow boys to ‘borrow’ e-books in a similar way to physical books, and to read them across their devices without losing their place.

“However, whereas some are happy with e-books, others seem to  prefer physical books. It is good to be able to provide both!” Mr Bowyer said.

The Click & Collect service encompasses not only books, but also magazines and publications such as comics, manga and graphic novels. To ensure the new arrangements remain safe, the librarian and boys are all required to wear masks, with hand sanitiser in frequent use.

Earlier this term, the Library also deployed technology to introduce the new Year 7 boys to its services, with Mr Bowyer producing a video to show the range of resources available.

“We knew it was going to happen, but we never did anything about it”: Year 8’s apocalyptic warnings from the future on climate change

Year 8 geographers have been getting creative as they grapple with the possible future effects of unchecked climate change.

The boys spent the first half of this term studying the topic, with many entering a QE competition challenging them to compose a poem or short story describing the world in the year 2100, when the world has warmed by 2 degrees.

The Geography department teamed up with Head of English Robert Hyland to judge the entries. Keon Robert has now been announced as the winner in the short story category, while Shreyas Chandrasekar was adjudged to have submitted the best poem.

Emily Parry, Head of Geography, said: ‘I was very impressed with the standard of submissions and the boys’ awareness of the potential impacts of climate change. The creative poems and stories clearly highlight the threat that climate change poses for all of us.”

The competition results were announced as the British Government unveiled its plan for a “green industrial revolution”, bringing forward a ban on petrol and diesel cars and announcing other measures, such as an expansion of offshore wind, hydrogen and nuclear power generation.

In his story, entitled Our Planet is on Fire, Keon imagined a dystopian future in a polluted city of 3 billion souls, its population swelled by immigrants from other countries seeking refuge from the effects of climate change.

There is no respite from the gloom: the story ends with the protagonist attending a meeting at his factory which, as he suspected, is to be closed down, as the authorities  try desperately – “too little, too late” – to deal with the crisis.

He reflects ruefully on the missed opportunities to deal with climate change that had brought the world to this point: “We knew it was going to happen, but we never did anything about it. In the end, it strikes us when we least expect it.”

Most of Shreyas’s poem is equally bleak – “none of us will survive” – and he adds anger into the mix:

Throw your wrath, your fury, your ire
To those who destroyed our Earth

But his work, entitled Every Little Helped, ends with just a hint of optimism, the voice from the future warning us that all may not yet be lost:

It’s time to act, to change, to make a better choice,
Or there will be no Earth left at all.

Riyan Siyani, who took second place in the poetry category, imagines how his grandchildren’s generation might look back on the present day:

It is the year 2100,
Nothing is the same, all hope has been squandered
We look back to the year of 2020
And remember how food was aplenty.

The runner-up in the short story category was Adam Liang, who draws out the effects of climate change on nature and on different groups in society, including the young – “babies are crying constantly…children complaining that it’s too hot” – and the old – “the first to go…they wasted and wilted away, just like dead flowers in the wind”.

The words I love: pupils discover their teachers’ favourite poems

The English department celebrated National Poetry Day by putting together a collection of QE teachers’ favourite poems which included verse that was variously inspiring, thought-provoking and just sheer fun.

Staff from across the departments took part, showing pupils that poetry is enjoyed by teachers from all subject areas. Boy were invited to approach them during the day and ask them about their choices.

The selected poems ranged from ancient to modern, from the emphatically high-brow to some much-loved examples of nonsense verse.

The anthology included poems by two Old Elizabethan poets, George Mpanga (George the Poet, 2002–2009) and QE’s poet-in-residence, Anthony Anaxagorou (1994–1999). Anthony, who runs a weekly poetry workshop for the boys, gave his reaction to the National Poetry Day initiative: “The students of ‘QE Boys’ continue to show a great appetite and appreciation for poetry, which is so heartening to see.”

Head of English Robbie Hyland explained why he had asked colleagues to reveal their favourite lines: “Everyone has a connection with poetry at some point in their lives – we read poems as children, study them at school, and encounter them throughout everyday life. I hope that by sharing poems that resonate with us, we can spark conversations about the values, ideas, and memories that matter to us as individuals.

“The staff have nominated an incredibly wide-ranging selection, from poems that inspire, to poems that address problematic issues in the modern world. I’ve really enjoyed reading the selections which teachers have nominated.”

Boys were informed about the plans for the day during registration, when they were shown a PowerPoint presentation of the teachers’ choice of poems and led in a brief discussion. In total, some 45 poems were picked by 34 teachers.

Here is a selection:

  • Grounded, by Anthony Anaxagorou: chosen by Headmaster Neil Enright
  • Poem 85 (ōdi et amō), by Catullus: chosen by Mr Hyland
  • The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost: chosen by Technology teacher Sean Kelly
  • Home by Warsan Shire: chosen by Deputy Head (Academic) Anne Macdonald
  • First They Came, by Martin Niemöller: chosen by History teacher Akhil Gohil
  • Errinerung an die Marie A., by Bertolt Brecht: chosen by Languages teacher Rebecca Grundy
  • Ozymandias, by Shelley: chosen by Head of Library Services Surya Bowyer
  • He is blessed as a god by Sappho: chosen by Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter

The top photos show Year 8’s Pranav Challa and William Fawcett asking History teacher Simon Walker and Geography teacher Helen Davies about their choices of poem – T S Eliot’s Macavity: the Mystery Cat and Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky respectively – with Mr Hyland also joining them for the chat.

The full selection of the teachers’ chosen poems has been added to the School’s eQE digital learning platform, where there is also a National Poetry Day resource to encourage further exploration of poetry.