Celebrating Creativity

A strength of the British approach to schooling is that there is a place for creativity and originality. Whilst we work within the confines of a defined curriculum and exam board specifications it is always a delight to see students take a creative approach to the task in hand.

This week I witnessed some of the events held in celebration of National Poetry Day. Watching Year 9 students performing Shelley and Shakespeare was a treat. To then be privileged to have the chance to hear students recite their own poetry (in front of that most demanding audience, their peers) was inspiring.

At the end of the week we joined together to celebrate St. Germain’s own, Claude Debussy. We were given the opportunity to hear musicians perform in tribute to the great man. Whilst the river and valley in front of our school is justly famous for its painters it also boasts two giants of musical composition as both Debussy and Bizet lived overlooking the Seine. We make a bit of a fuss of Debussy in the Senior School, indeed as I write this piece I am sat in the Debussy Building. Rightly so, he was as good an example as we could hope for of having the courage to think in a new way. In a letter of 1908 he wrote: “I am trying to do ‘something different’ ” and this may well be an approach that we should encourage our young people to adopt. Thinking differently takes courage and requires young people to be resilient in the face of opposition. As adults we have to accept that our children or pupils will have different views and approaches to life’s obstacles. They will work in ways which may well be wildly different from the way that we would do things. Sometimes they are right, sometimes not. The musical establishment was challenged by Debussy’s approach to nontraditional scales, bitonality, and chromaticism, yet now his influence can be seen in music as diverse as Miles Davis and the film scores of John Williams. When he premiered La Mer in 1905 audiences were perplexed by this symphony that wasn’t. He drew on influences far from France’s shores being fascinated by instruments like the Javanese Gamelan and he actively sought to distance himself from more traditional composers drawing on impressionist painters and symbolist poets for creative impetus. Indeed he may very well be the only major artist to have gained inspiration in Eastbourne. In short he was curious about the world around him and ready to engage with a wide variety of ideas.

Over the course of this week I have had the opportunity to see our own students taking on challenging new forms of both art and performance. I hope that their example will influence others to make connections between ideas to develop their voice, their view. For this is the best gift that education can give, an ability to take the best of all that is given and to bring it together to the benefit of all. Having the confidence to do something different not simply for being different’s sake, but because you are moving thought or art onwards is a marvellous thing indeed. Well done to all who performed this week and don’t stop now.

Nicholas Hammond

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