Monday, 19 October 2009

Looking Forward. Looking Back.

Had a Soho Sunday planning with my old friend Liz. The European School, where we were both flung up is about to close after nearly forty years of business, reinventing itself as an academy. Both of us feel a need to preserve something of the maverick education we were lucky enough to benefit from.

Looking back now, my take is that we were a very successful experiment in anti-racism. In the year I left there were twenty eight nationalities and five working languages. Confusion and moments lost in translation occurred on a daily basis, but despite - in fact because of - the chaotic cultural and linguistic jungle, we all found innovative, artistic, imaginative and tolerant ways to understand and be understood.

Liz began a facebook group and alumni site in the spring, which has spawned a wonderful pictorial archive and reunited over 400 ex-students, to create a fabulous and democratic reminiscence.

Today we talked of taking the project on. For me the next, and possible final phase would be to create a huge community event. Possibly working inter generationally with current and former students of the school over the course of a dedicated month to produce a weekend festival of celebration. This might include a number of events, but my focus would be on creating an oral history of the school, with stories and memories prompted by the bricks and mortar. It's a move from the democratic nature of sharing on the web to shaping some of this material into a work of art.

Liz shares the evocative idea that the walls, the thick wooden doors, the hundreds of secret cupboards, stairwells and corridors should perhaps tell the stories.

Its a tantalising idea and perfect project management material for some of our St Mary's students. It has some parallels with the 400th birthday celebrations we're planning for Ham House, just with a different shape. We'd need to look for funding, but the technology isn't impossible to manage and wouldn't it be a fantastic way to mark the transition? We'll see.

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