The unthinkable has occurred in trendy East Dulwich - a branch of the Women’s Institute has opened. Instead of being located in a local church hall, the members opted for the Magdala public house in Lordship Lane. A suggestion was made for a WI branch formation on the East Dulwich Forum website which led to it formation some eighteen months ago. It now has a membership of 60 with a further 35 on the waiting list and a regular attendance of around 30. It has enjoyed a monthly programme of the more usual kind of WI activities like modern flower arranging, decorating Easter eggs, cake making and ‘what to wear for autumn’. On the other hand it has also offered a croquet morning, a keep-fit tutored session, a picnic in Dulwich Park and being entertained by a magician. In 2009 the East Dulwich WI plans to make its ‘good cause’ the Dulwich Helpline.
‘Jerusalem’ is not sung at their at their meetings, nor does a cup of tea feature, instead we are informed that a glass of wine is preferred! For more information contact www.eastdulwichwi.co.uk
The credit crunch is creating tough times for local estate agents. A sign in one agency window in Dulwich Village carried this notice - Give Blood! Cor! Things must be bad!
Unless you are employing a Polish builder to carry out work on your home it is unlikely that a religious text will be left behind as a memento. However, in the case of a Dulwich Village house built in the late Georgian period , the carpenter left a biblical text written in an apparent mixture of Classical and Medieval Latin in heavily indented pencil on the reverse of a piece of wooden skirting.
The skirting was in one of the upstairs smaller rooms and is about 4 inches wide; considerably narrower than the 15 inch more detailed skirting in the rooms on the raised ground floor. It was probably the final piece of work to be done to complete the house. The inscription reads:
1826 Nulla igitur nonce eis qui Sunt in Christo Jesu qui non Secundum Carmen ambulant Sed Secundum Spirtitum ( which a local classicist has translated thus : “ Therefore no harm may there be to those who are in Jesus Christ who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit” Beneath it is written:
a Glorious Truth
Romans 8 Chapter 1 Verse
Thos. Griffiths Carpenter from near
Narberth Pembrokeshire South Wales
(Romans chapter 8 verse 1 reads: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.)
What else do we know of Thomas Griffiths? Unfortunately very little. We can deduce that he was taught grammar at school although the mixture of Latin is unusual. Griffiths is of course a very common Welsh name and in 1830, just four years later there were half dozen other Griffiths in Narberth. They were shopkeepers - a butcher, grocer, draper, ironmonger and a saddler in the village which even today only has a population of under 1700 persons.
In nineteenth century there was an increased movement of Welsh people to London, a movement which had started over half a century earlier and there was a Welsh church in Southwark. As Thomas Griffiths is keen to record the name of his home town in Wales on the inscription it is possible he was not a permanent Dulwich or even London resident in 1826. Nevertheless, we do know that a Thomas Griffiths, bookbinder, married Ann Rawlings a local teacher in 1845. Ann Rawlings was the teacher of the girls’ class at the Dulwich Free School (now JAGS) then located at the former French Horn inn in the Village (the site is next to Barclays Bank). She retired in 1855 after twenty years service and received a gratuity of £20 as a mark of long and devoted service to the school. The coincidence of the names is such to suggest that Thomas Griffiths the carpenter, had a family in South Wales which he brought to London, where, as the choice of the text suggests, he had been living on his own, and that Thomas Griffiths the bookbinder was his son.
Whatever happened to Mary Lines? We know she lived in Dulwich, that she attended James Allen’s Girls’ School and that she was the greatest women’s athlete of her generation. She won five medals at the first Women’s Olympic Games held in Paris in 1922 organised by the Fédération Sportive Feminine Internationale (FSFI). She represented Great Britain in what was called the Five Countries Games following the refusal of the International Amateur Athletics Association (IAAF) to add women’s games to the 1924 Olympiad.
In the 1922 Games Mary Lines gained a silver for the 60 metres sprint, a bronze for the 100yards, a gold for the 300 metres, a gold for the long jump and yet another gold for the 4x100 metres relay in which she was lead-off. During her career, Mary Lines simultaneously held six world records in different events. She set a world record for the 880 yards in Monte Carlo in 1921 and improved on her time of 2 mins 45 secs by 19 seconds a year later at Crystal Palace. She also participated in the Women’s World Games in Sweden in 1926.
Mary Lines then disappeared. What happened to her? Did she marry, did she continue with athletics? If any reader can throw any light on her subsequent life both this column and JAGS would be very interested to hear.
The nomination for a Southwark Heritage Award blue plaque to commemorate the life and work of Dulwich singer Anne Shelton OBE (1928-1994) received over a thousand votes and a plaque on her former home at 142 Court Lane where she lived for some thirty years was unveiled by the Mayor of Southwark in October. Teresa Cahill, the opera singer and a friend of Anne outlined Anne’s career and John Brunel Cohen spoke of her connection with the Not Forgotten Association for whom she arranged annual concerts at Buckingham Palace over many years. A large audience witnessed the ceremony, which was highlighted by the presence of a Colour Party from the Royal British Legion and representatives from the Not Forgotten Association.
It is perhaps not realised today, what a major name she was in light entertainment during and after the Second World War. Her career began at the age of 13 with the Ambrose Orchestra with which she sang for six years. In 1942 she started touring military bases and the BBC soon gave her a special programme, entitled “Calling Malta”. The show ran for five years and was the only outside link for the besieged islanders. At the same time another programme “Introducing Anne” was beamed to Allied troops in North Africa and her signature song in the show was an anglicised version of Lili Marlene. In 1944 she performed in six shows with Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and in the same year Bing Crosby invited Anne to do a show with him for US troops stationed in the UK. She and Bing recorded the “Variety Bandbox” radio show with Tommy Handley and she went on to perform with Bing with two duets, “Easter Parade” and “I’ll Get By”.
In 1951 Anne went on an eleven month tour of the United States, opening at New York’s Copacabana and playing there for four weeks. She toured abroad widely and at home she appeared in three Royal Variety Shows and continued entertaining servicemen. It was through this connection she began her long service with the Not Forgotten Association, the charity for disabled veterans.
The initiative for the nomination came from Mr and Mrs Jeremy Prescott who now live in the house and who hosted this delightful event.
Girlguiding UK has announced that having talked to a number of interested groups and organisations, including Bromley Council the freeholders of the Park, it plans to renovate the famous Maze by September 2009 to create a fun, interactive feature. It will include some aspects of trail and discovery, themed sections and elements within the hedging which would work well in winter months. The design would reflect not only the history of the Guides - at the Crystal Palace Scout Rally in 1909 a small group of pioneering girls stopped Robert Baden-Powell to demand similar opportunities for girls - but also link to the social history of the area. What a splendid way to celebrate the movement’s centenary.
It is quite incomprehensible that there should no longer be a pedestrianised crossing of the Lordship Lane/South Circular Road/Dulwich Common junction. Fast moving traffic, descending Lordship Lane and London Road turn left onto Dulwich Common at speed and pedestrians run literally for their lives. Considering that this crossing route connects Horniman Museum, Dulwich Park, Sydenham Hill Wood Nature Reserve and Dulwich Woods for pedestrians, the omission of a proper crossing is disgraceful. Our photograph shows that certainly in the 1940’s such a crossing existed - at a time, as it also graphically illustrates, there was very little traffic.
Although many residents in Dulwich may be aware of the accommodation provided at Edward Alleyn House (the building on College Road, facing the entrance to Dulwich Park) less well known is The Dulwich Almshouse Charity’s outreach work.
The Charity emanates from Edward Alleyn’s Foundation, established in 1619, and its objects, which continue to this day, were those set down by Alleyn - to relieve beneficiaries in case of need, hardship or distress, by the provision of almshouses ‘and otherwise’. This second element to the Charity’s activity takes two forms:
1. Grants to support local organisations (which meet the Charity’s criteria) and these include Dulwich Helpline (for its Neighbourhood Care Programme which provides friendship and support to isolated older people) and St Christopher’s Hospice (for its ‘@home’ scheme which offers palliative care to the sick in their own homes). Information on the work of these two organisations is available from their websites: www.dulwich-helpline.org.uk and www.stchristophers.org.uk
Financial assistance is also provided to the Bishopsgate Foundation and to Camberwell Consolidated Charities which pay small pensions to their beneficiaries.
2. Contact with outreach beneficiaries: the Charity Warden, Carol, as well as assisting the almshouse residents currently makes home visits to nine local people who range from 77 to 99 years. These individuals, where physically able, are encouraged to attend coffee mornings held in the Vestry at Christ’s Chapel in the Village and to join in other social outings and activities. These include a Christmas Lunch and a summer outing for both its almshouse residents and the outreach beneficiaries.
The Dulwich Estate funds the work of the Almshouse Charity through an annual payment of income and it has also funded improvement works to the almshouse buildings.
Further information regarding the activities of The Dulwich Almshouse Charity or indeed the conditions for entry to Edward Alleyn House can be obtained via the website: www.thedulwichestate.org.uk (under ‘Beneficiaries’) or from The Dulwich Estate Office (Mrs Veronica Edwards - telephone number 020 8299 5565).
Dulwich OnView is an online magazine run by a group of Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery. It offers up-to-the-minute information on local events with articles on wine, quizzes, reviews, green issues and numerous other topics. It is non-commercial and run by volunteers. To find out more go to www.dulwichonview.org.uk and then to ‘Who We Are’. You will find out how to add your voice to this celebration of the Dulwich area.
All of the material which was on open access at the Borough will be available at Peckham. Archival service is not for the moment available.
In the last issue of the Newsletter we published a history of the Dulwich Volunteer Battalion, formerly the Dulwich & District Defence League, whose war memorial was restored during the summer from funds allocated by the Dulwich Community Council. Hilary Devonshire of Lovelace Road writes to say that her grandfather was a member of the Battalion. His name was William Gough Edwards and he was born in Llangwmn, Pembrokeshire in 1879. He was a teacher and moved initially to Beauval Road and after his marriage in 1909, to Carson Road, West Dulwich. During the First World War he was appointed headteacher at Devons Road School, Bow while continuing to reside in Dulwich. In 1926 he became headteacher at Rosendale Road School. As he was in a protected occupation, he was excused military call-up and instead joined the Dulwich Volunteer Battalion, a First World War form of Home Guard.
Continuing Brian Green’s reminiscences as a Dulwich shopkeeper for 50 years
She is short and slightly built and tends to scurry when she walks. She has two facial expressions. One is a wide grin, the other, a look which combines earnestness with urgency. I don’t know what Micky’s given name is; it might be Michaela or some other feminised appellation of the Archangel’s. Why should I imagine this? Well, both Micky’s parents were scholars in Italian and her father had translated a woven chronological text of the Gospels from its original Italian, into English. Which probably explains why Micky spent nine years as a nanny in Venice while her father performed these labours.
When the work was done the family moved to Pickwick Road and Micky turned her attention to photography. She is a talented photographer. The Wimbledon Tennis Museum retained her services for many years to produce a photographic record of the All England tournament for its archive and each year she was to be found amongst the press scrum around the Centre Court. She also became one of my suppliers of greeting cards. Her photographic flower studies were extremely popular, to the extent that in that pre-digital age, Micky could not keep up the production of her handmade cards. Friends and neighbours in Pickwick Road and around were dragooned by Micky into their manufacture, a labour if not remunerative (the costs of processing individual photographs being so high) was at least sociable.
And then one day, long after her elderly parents had died, Micky announced that she was going to Venice to organise Vivaldi concerts in various Venice churches. We all thought she had gone mad, and indeed told her so too. But she went, staying I believe, with the family with whom she had been the nanny. Perhaps it was Micky who was responsible for the proliferation of performances of The Four Seasons in so many of Venice’s redundant churches and palaces. However, having tested the water, her plan was then carried a stage further. She would sell her house in Pickwick Road and buy a small flat in the centre of Venice where she would study the life of Vivaldi. Her friends repeated their earlier warnings, prophesising total disaster. But she sold the house in Pickwick Road and went to Venice.
The years went by, and every summer Micky would reappear in Dulwich during Wimbledon Fortnight to continue with her photographic assignment. Then the visits stopped. In 2001 I was staying in Venice, in a crumbling but lovely fifteenth century palazzo now doing service as a modest B & B. It was in a little square to the east of the bustle of St Mark’s. In a corner of the square was the small church S. Giovanni in Bragora. One morning, the door being open, I went in. There was Micky.
The church was where Vivaldi started his musical career as a choirboy and it was where Micky was working on his papers while repairs were being carried out at the better known Conservatory della Pieta on the Molo, where he was concert master and director for 40 years and produced most of his compositions. Micky is the Pieta’s official Vivldi researcher and the trustees would later provide her with a flat in the former church and there she continues to be immersed in study and translation of the Vivaldi archive. Her researches into the all-female choirs which Vivaldi trained at this refuge for unwanted babies have revealed that the women sang tenor and bass parts and some remained at the Pieta for their entire life. She is now a world, possibly the world authority on the composer (a biography of Vivaldi by Micky is in the pipeline) and when the BBC shows a programme about his life, there is Micky, with her urgent and earnest expression indicating some detail in the manuscript, before lapsing into her familiar grin as she makes her point.
In Dulwich Park, on the pathway around the lake is a wooden bench inscribed with “In Memory of Dick the Brick 1950-2000“. It does not say that the bench was donated in Dick’s memory by the regulars at the Castle PH in East Dulwich where he propped up the bar and ran the pub quiz and where he was held in such affection. It was his skill as a raconteur that won him his reputation as one of East Dulwich’s characters. His stories were told in a soft Devon accent and their humour was always directed towards himself. Dick was the most agreeable of companions on a stroll in the country or a drink at the bar.
Many of his stories were about his years at sea and he retained the rolling gait of a sailor all his life. Dick was born near Plymouth and he enlisted in the Royal Navy where he served as a gunner on Fishery Protection vessels during the almost forgotten Cod War with Iceland. When he was discharged from that service on health grounds he joined the merchant marine. It was between these two spells at sea that Dick took, at the suggestion of the RN, a course in bricklaying and it was to this trade he turned when he became disenchanted with life in the merchant navy.
Dick was a very good bricklayer when he put his mind to it. The problem was that he was not equipped by nature to put his mind to anything for long. Perhaps that’s why his marriage failed and probably explains why his career ceased in the Royal Navy and why his life ended the way it did. Dick was essentially a lonely man and craved company by propping up the bar for hours on end and getting steadily drunk. When a close friend died Dick imagined he might fill his former shipmate’s shoes. He prepared to remove to Scotland to look after the widow and her daughter. When this suggestion was rejected, quite wisely by the widow, Dick returned to London and his lonely flat, took a Stanley knife from his tool bag and cut his own throat.
Arthur Perry would be everyone’s idea of an old fashioned vicar - always wearing his clerical collar, to be seen in summer in a cream alpaca jacket and a Panama hat which he doffed to every lady he passed in the Village during his frequent perambulations. He invariably gave an impression of being surprised and amused and swept along by events, rather like the expression the Prince of Wales adopts. He was a keen crossword puzzler, and to his delight, twice winner of ‘ The Times’ crossword competition.
Yet Canon Perry (a title he explained to me one day as a kind of ecclesiastical OBE), had a less well-known side. He was a true comedian. Not the brash, in your face kind of comedian, but one of subtle timing and brilliant delivery. He might have been compared with a Jack Benny or a Bob Newhart. This aspect came to the fore one year when he attended the then annual clergy conference at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp, an odd choice of venue but generously offered gratis by Billy Butlin. Arthur entertained the attending serious minded delegates with a stand-up act accompanied on the piano by Michael Marshall, Bishop of Woolwich, also a Dulwich resident. His performance became a legend.
Arthur Perry arrived as a priest in the Church of England via a job in a shipping office in Liverpool. He was a low-churchman and well suited to St Barnabas when he arrived in the late 1950’s. Unlike its neighbouring Anglican churches, which had been built some thirty years earlier at the height of the Anglo-Catholic movement, St Barnabas was consecrated on the crest of a liturgical reaction against ritualism. Thus it should not be found so surprising how a series of Lent lunches which I attended, developed.
In common with many churches the Gospel of St Mark was selected as a text which might be studied and digested, along with a simple lunch once a week over the six week period of Lent. The lunches started modestly enough; after all there was expected to be an element of sacrifice and simplicity. Thus week one saw bread and cheese accompanying the story of the life of Jesus. The following week soup was added to the diet, the cheese still being retained. A week later a splendid pudding made by Rene the Vicar’s wife appeared on the table. In week 4, cream accompanied the pudding. By the last two weeks of our Lenten fast Arthur’s home made wine accompanied a now fully blown luncheon.
When he retired, Arthur’s modest salary did not allow opportunity for providing himself and Rene with a new home upon leaving his comfortable vicarage in Calton Avenue. His friend, Mervyn Stockwood, Bishop of Southwark, interceded and Arthur was offered a delightful cottage owned by the Church of England in Walsingham in Norfolk. The problem for Arthur was that Walsingham is the Anglican Church’s one and only shrine, a place of pilgrimage and veneration and therefore quite alien to Arthur’s concept of churchmanship. However, needs must and he and Rene moved in to their new home and in no time at all Arthur began ‘helping out’ with the many services at this unique place and eventually began to accompany some of the pilgrimages. God works in a mysterious way!
In case, dear Reader, you might think I have run out of stories about my fellow shopkeepers, let me assure you that I would be surprised if Fate could have provided a more unusual bunch. Take Wally Burt for instance. Wally was the newspaper seller when the Village (and elsewhere) used to support one. He would be at his stand at North Dulwich Station in the mornings selling his ‘dailies’, and in the evening greeting the same but now more weary trainloads of commuters with the choice of three London evening newspapers. His favourite greeting was “Buy a paper, have a read”, uttered in a barely inviting base tone.
Wally I think, always resembled a cheerful Fagin. For about nine months of the year he dressed in the same sort of well-worn overcoat Fagin might have sported. Newspaper vending was not the extent of Wally’s business life. In the hours between the morning and evening trains Wally was a bookie with a legitimate stand at all the South-east England racecourses. In the days before betting shops Wally was never averse to taking a bet at the same time as handing over a copy of The Times.
I cannot recall how or why I suggested Wally might be an ideal Father Christmas at the Village Infants’ Christmas party. As deputy chairman of the governors I suppose I had some kind of role in the management of the party at St Barnabas Hall. Wally was enthusiastic about the idea. A Father Christmas outfit was obtained and the day of the party arrived and almost two hundred excited infants awaited the arrival of Father Christmas aka Wally. The tea came and went but still no Wally. In desperation and feeling responsible, for this, my only contribution to the party, I donned the Father Christmas outfit and filled in as a poor substitute for the absent Wally. As the party was ending and parents collecting their children, Wally arrived. Red-faced and breathless and clutching 200 copies of The Dandy and The Beano which he had intended to give to the children he apologised for the vagaries of British Rail which had cancelled his train to Dulwich from his home in deepest Surrey.
There was more than a passing resemblance between Elizabeth and Margaret Rutherford. Indeed, Elizabeth could have been cast as Madame Arcarti any day with her scarves and large shopping bag, the latter having wheels for easier transport in Elizabeth’s later life.
Elizabeth was always cheerful and well-dressed. Her peroxide hair often semi-contained by a brightly coloured beret and her lipstick carefully applied. She was to be seen at all hours of the day and night, trundling her wheeled bag back from her frequent visits to the English Speaking Union in Charles Street where she often lunched or attended lectures.
Elizabeth was an avid lecture attendee. Whatever the subject, Elizabeth would be there. However, every chairman’s heart would sink when Elizabeth was espied entering the hall and taking up her favourite position in the front row where her striking presence was guaranteed to put the lecturer off-balance. What rattled the chairmen of such functions was Elizabeth’s guaranteed habit of being the first to ask a question in that doubtfully useful period at the end of some interesting talk when most of the audience are anxious either to head for home, an awaiting glass of wine or cup of coffee.
It mattered little if the lecture was about growing vegetables in Sumatra or the latest archaeological find, Elizabeth’s questions were always framed in such a way that while she initially addressed the subject of the lecture, by the end (and it was not reached for some time) she would have diverted it to her favourite topic - education. Education, in her opinion, had gone to the dogs. At other times and in private conversations and in hushed tones Elizabeth would often introduce her other pet subject - the presence of strange and powerful forces at work. I cannot remember if these forces were of a domestic or an alien character but imprisoned behind my counter I was frequently warned by Elizabeth that: “They are listening to us you know”.
In the 1970’s, when I was editing another community/church magazine for Dulwich, I was approached by the owner of a new restaurant in Lordship Lane, close to Townley Road, who was interested in taking a third of a page of advertising space. At the time there actually was no space available and so I had to apologise and explain that should there be in the future I would let him know. The reputation of the restaurant grew and I decided I would impress my bank manager by taking him there to lunch and at the same time repay him for his hospitality on a previous occasion.
It was a splendid lunch and the service was unobtrusive. Shortly after the restaurant was ‘discovered’ by Time Out and all changed. The menu outside disappeared. In its stead was a notice which said “We do not serve prawn cocktails or well-done steaks and we only serve lamb pink. If you want to know anything more about this restaurant, consult the guides.” The media began to carry long reports in bold type about the new enfant terrible of the culinary scene, who, upon a complaint would emerge raging from the kitchen. It was not long before Nico Ladenis shook the dust of Dulwich off his pots and pans and up-spooned for Battersea and onwards towards Park Lane, the stratosphere and three Michelin stars and in the process cued in the long line of celebrity chefs which pepper (sic) our TV screens and newspapers.
If there is a future Nico Ladenis opening a local restaurant, let me say that we do have an eighth-page space available for an advertisement.
Saturday 6th Dulwich Choral Society Concert - Carmina Burana by Carl Orff and The Passing of the Year, a virtuoso showpiece by the British composer Jonathan Dove at 7.30pm at St John’s Church, Auckland Road, Upper Norwood. Tickets available on the door.
Thursday 11th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture Glory to the New Born King: Depictions of the Nativity in European Art by James Lindow. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture theatre at 8pm (coffee from 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Tuesday 16th Concordia Chamber Choir present a programme of Christmas Carols and Readings. Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich Village at 7pm. Entrance free - Retiring Collection for the Kingfisher Charity.
Monday 22nd Dulwich Choral Society - A programme of Christmas Music from across the ages at 6.30pm St Stephen’s Church, College Road, South Dulwich. Retiring collection in aid of St Christopher’s Hospice.
Thursday 8th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture Rebels and Martyrs- the Image of the Artist in the 19th Century by Lois Oliver. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre at 8pm (coffee from 7.30pm) £7, students £1.
Monday 19th Dulwich Subscription Concert at 7.30pm in the Old Library Dulwich College. - The Court Lane Ensemble led by Simon Hewitt Jones - Mozart, Vivaldi and Imogen Holst. Tickets £15, £10 concessions, £5 students. (tel: 020 8761 6659)
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The Barbizon School and French 19th Century Paintings by Kathleen McLauchin. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre at 8pm (coffee from 7.30pm) £7 students £1.
Sunday 8th Dulwich Society Garden Group. ‘Pruning Clematis’ - demonstration, discussion, information with Denise MacDonald, committee member British Clematis Society. Wet or fine, in the garden of 137 Burbage Road. Free. With a cup of tea round the kitchen table (space permitting!). Put the date in your diary, to-day.
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Art Society Lecture The World of Carpets by Roderick Taylor. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre at 8pm (coffee from 7.30pm) £7, students £1.
Wednesday 18th Dulwich Subscription Concert at 7.30pm in The Old Library, Dulwich College. Jane Friend cello, Tim Barratt piano. Programme to be announced. Tickets £15, £10 concs, £5 students Tel 020 8761 6659
Thursday 19th Dulwich Society Gardens Group illustrated talk “London’s lesser known Public Gardens” by Colin Jones. At the St Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue, 8pm. Free
At least two Dulwich Heads are retiring during this academic year. We asked the Revd Nick Earle, who taught at Dulwich College and JAGS and was Headmaster at one time of Bromsgrove School, what problems incoming Headteachers are likely to face.
Every school is different; all schools are the same. This is the paradox which confronts every headteacher when he or she takes up a headship at a new and relatively unknown school.
All schools are the same because all are composed of four constituencies: the governors, the staff, the parents and the pupils. Each understands the school in its own way; the governors understand it as a financial responsibility, the staff as a means of livelihood and, if they are fortunate enough, as an opportunity to fulfil a lifelong vocation. The parents, on the other hand, see it as a means of advancing their children’s ‘life-chances’ and perhaps their own prestige while the pupils, who of course are the ones who know what is really going on, see ‘school’ as the first step towards the freedom which they crave.
But every school is different because the influence which such constituencies exert can vary widely from school to school and the headteacher, whose job it is to keep the tensions created in some kind of equilibrium, must decide how much and what kind of attention must be given to each.
How much must Governors be listened to? To rank and file governors probably very little, but to the Chairman a good deal (though even Chairmen have been known to be erratic!)
In the case of the staff, a Headteacher will listen very attentively to some and less so to others. But which ones and which others? One’s own judgement and that of a reliable deputy will be the best guides.
Unless he or she is very unlucky, the majority of parents will give a new Head little trouble. They will know from their own experience of bringing up a family that the foundation of any successful community is trust and will guess, correctly, that a Head has to be half parent and half king. But a few will enjoy making a fuss and they, like one or two of their counterparts on the staff, will have to be brought into line - preferably by the exertion of peer pressure but in the last resort by confrontation. And this should be the very last resort.
And the pupils? Well, a modern school has to be large, if only for financial reasons, and a Head will be very fortunate, and very exceptional, if he or she knows all their names. So each Head must decide whether or not to establish a School Council if one does not already exist, and again the senior staff will be the best advisers as to what form it should take and what weight it should be given.
When I became an headmaster, a long time ago, I was surprised by the comparatively few initiatives I needed to take, at least during the early years. More suggestions came from the staff than I had supposed possible and my job was to respond with a ‘no’ only if really good reasons existed for doing so, but otherwise with a ‘yes, but…’ which enabled me to introduce my own views. What I also discovered very quickly was that a Head, like a parent, was judged less by what he or she said and did and more by what he or she was perceived to be.
This discovery led me to the formulation of my five Golden Rules, which I now set down in writing for the first time and for what they may be worth.
1. Keep fit.
2. Keep solvent.
3. Keep cheerful.
4. Keep in touch.
And, most important of all,
5. Keep out of the way.
by Nick Earle
Music has always played an important part in the life of Dulwich, largely through the Foundation Schools (Dulwich College, James Allen’s Girls’ School and Alleyn’s School.) There has also been a long tradition of church music at Christ’s Chapel, which has been taken up by the local parish churches since their establishment in the late nineteenth century.
The Dulwich Choral Society was founded in 1944, first as a local authority evening class which rehearsed at Dulwich Hamlet School. In the 1970’s it became an independent society under its long-standing conductor Graham Stewart, who was also director of music at St Stephen’s Church and the Alleyn Chorale.
The Dulwich Choral Society has about 80 members and gives three major concerts a year, mainly in churches in the Dulwich area, though it has also appeared in such venues as St James, Piccadilly, Southwark Cathedral, St John’s, Smith Square, the Fairfield and Blackheath halls. At most of its concerts the Society performs with members of major London orchestras, using top class soloists. The Society has now inaugurated the practice of singing in a Dulwich church at Christmas in aid of a local charity.
The Society’s present director of music is the distinguished young conductor, Aidan Oliver, who is also director of music at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the Parliamentary Church next to Westminster Abbey. Aidan is also the founding chorus master of Philharmonia Voices, a professional chorus which performs with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The Society’s Honorary President is the eminent soprano Dame Emma Kirby.
The Society presents a wide repertoire of choral music; recent performances including Haydn’s Creation, an Elgar 150th Anniversary Promenade Concert, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, and The Song of Moses by Thomas Linley the Younger (whose portrait hangs in Dulwich Picture Gallery) and The Pilgrim’s Progress, a dramatic sequence of words and music devised by Aidan Oliver. These concerts have been very well attended and much appreciated.
Over the last ten years the Dulwich Choral Society has undertaken singing tours to Paris, Prague, Venice, Leipzig and Estonia and a visit is now planned to Latvia.
The next concert will consist of performances of Carmina Burana by Cark Orff and the Passing of the Year, a virtuoso showpiece by British composer Jonathan Dove at St John’s Church, Auckland Road, Upper Norwood on Saturday 6th December at 7.30pm In addition the Dulwich Choral Society will be presenting a programme of Christmas music from across the ages at St Stephen’s Church, South Dulwich on Monday 22nd December at 6.30pm when there will be a retiring collection in aid of St Christopher’s Hospice. A performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah is planned for Saturday 28th March 2009 which will mark the tercentenary of the composer’s birth.