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22 Jun 2018

Alex Hems: Head's Blog June 22, 2018

A2.SMY AlexHems096 Crop 250wCan the creative arts change lives?

I had the great pleasure of starting the week with a group of Upper Sixth leavers, in the Gallery of Modern Art discussing the topic of Books that Might Change Your Life. Their reflections on their own reading choices and the books which have already influenced them were fascinating, and, at a time when there is rightly, much concern about whether young people are reading as widely or as frequently as in the past, it was encouraging to hear how much their reading continues to mean to them. This was a message that came through too in the pages of the year's final edition of Independent Women which I thoroughly recommend. When working with young people one is always conscious that every influence or experience that touches their lives will shape them in one way or another. An article, a blog, a podcast, an inspiring teacher, a visiting speaker, all of these could be profoundly influential. Our role is to ensure that the experiences are as far as possible positive, varied and appropriately challenging, and crucially that students are encouraged to bring their critical faculties to bear on the ideas that they encounter.

The Art Exhibition on Thursday evening was a shining example of that combination of critical, reflective response to challenging influences. The notebooks and sketches that accompany the completed works offer sobering and fascinating insight into the painstaking process of creating a finished piece. As ideas evolve and mature through their pages one has a glimpse of learning through experience and trial and error which is as rewarding to study as the stunning final pieces that are on display.

There could be no doubt for anyone in the audience of Mary Poppins Junior this week of what a formative and special experience being part of that production will have been for all involved. The blend of creative exuberance, talent and disciplined teamwork that comes together in any play is exciting and rewarding. As the cast romped through the performance one could sense their enjoyment and their support for one another; their pleasure was infectious.  We know of course that to bring a production of this scale and sophistication together takes many hours of rehearsal and our congratulations go to all the girls involved. Our thanks to Mrs Heather-Hayes and Mr Raynor for their hard work and creative direction, to the musicians, the lighting team, the efficient and patient backstage crew and the talented needleworkers who made the costumes. It truly was 'practically perfect in every way'.

On Monday we will hear the leaving Upper Sixth musicians perform for us for the last time at their Leavers' Recital, which is always a moving occasion. Earlier this week every member of Primary 5 played her part in their Farewell event, where again it was clear that they had prepared so carefully and took their responsibilities to the group very seriously. A performer who steps forward for her solo, or allows us to see her interpretation of a character, or an artist whose painting, and the sketches that led to it are on display, shows great courage and grows through the experience. We have a glimpse into the way in which they see the world, and they in turn, by their creative efforts enrich our life experience.  At their best the creative and performing arts have truth and courage at their heart, and these final days of term have been a joyous celebration of those qualities.

Mrs Alex Hems MA Oxon
Head, St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

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