The recent news that the expertise of Dulwich education is being planted elsewhere (following successes in Thailand and China) should therefore come as no surprise. I refer of course to the projected opening of a City Academy in East London by Dulwich College in a partnership between the private sector and the government. Dulwich College is providing £2 million through a so-far anonymous donor, and the Government is funding the £18 million required to establish the new school.
This is not the first time that Dulwich schools have co-operated with the state sector. JAGS received its first publicly funded pupils from the London County Council in 1896 and after the passing of the 1944 Education Act which introduced nationwide secondary education; Dulwich College offered 90% of its places to LCC scholars. This offer was accepted and what was called 'The Dulwich Experiment' lasted until 1978 when political dogma dictated the withdrawal of local authority places from independent schools.
The undoubted success of the Dulwich model deserves to be replicated. It is based on a long tradition of educational expertise. In the late nineteenth century, schools like Dulwich embraced the model created by Thomas Arnold at Rugby some half-century earlier. The concept of prefects, the house system, and school uniform all sprang from Arnold. To these, the mood of the times, with its emphasis on muscular-Christianity led to the expansion of school games and gymnasiums. Over the years of course Dulwich has built up its own traditions and its whole system runs very successfully. These are some of the methods that the Education Minister hopes to introduce into the 200 such city academies of which the Dulwich planting was the first to be announced.
There is every reason to believe that this new experiment will succeed, provided the other key aspects of the Dulwich model - punctuality, attendance, respect, and accountability are also expected and achieved. After all, the primary school sector has raised its profile to such an extent that parents are bewildered that its success has not so far been duplicated in the state secondary sector.
The Public Appeal for funds to raise a statue to Edward Alleyn was launched by the Dulwich Society at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in May. There was a large attendance and visitors were able both to view the studies of the Finalists' designs and see the presentation to Louise Simson, sculptor of the winning design by Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. As reported in the last issue, sixty applications for the entry details were received, and there were thirty-three designs submitted.
The brief for the Open Competition was to design a life-size figurative bronze statue of Alleyn. Some information on his life and career was supplied but artists were expected to conduct their own further research. The judging was conducted 'blind' by the panel of judges who were unanimous in their choice of the winning design. In addition to the six finalists who each received a cheque from the Dulwich Society for £750, two further statuettes of designs commended by the judges were also displayed in the exhibition in the Linbury Room of the Picture Gallery.
At the time of going to press the Appeal, chaired by our President, Judge Michael Rich QC has raised £40,000. Thirty-four patrons have so far supported the Appeal and there has been a good response from Dulwich Society members and other individuals. The Dulwich Estate, on behalf of the Foundation Schools and associated charities generously contributed £10,000. The total thus exceeds the original target figure but the judges' choice of the winning design is one that includes a second figure, and this will increase costs.
Whilst it is likely that sufficient funds are available to commission the casting of the statue, subject to acceptable tenders being received, there still remains a balance to be raised to provide a suitable plinth. Dulwich Society Members who wish to be associated with the project but have not yet made a donation are invited to send their cheques to the Appeal Treasurer, David Trace FCA, 88 Burbage Road, SE 24 9HE. Cheques should be made payable to the Edward Alleyn Statue Appeal.
Louise Simson was born in London in 1960. Having learnt certain practical techniques while studying History of Art at Edinburgh University she started painting oils of actors and actresses from their performances at the National Theatre between 1981-86. Capturing the actors' movement became a way of defining not only the person, but also the character they were portraying. Most of these paintings are now in private collections. Amongst the actors painted were Jack Shepherd in Midsummer Night's Dream, Judi Dench in The Importance of Being Ernest, and John Normington in Danton's Death. A number of commissions were also completed in Washington and Philadelphia in 1986. Buyers include Richard Thomas (John Boy Walton), Zach Grenier (Fight Club) and Allison Janney (The West Wing).
Between 1986 and 1990 she worked in film, television and theatre. Films include Sour Sweet directed by Mike Newall, television includes Paradise Club produced by Selwyn Roberts. She did costumes for a number of stage productions, including some directed by Jack Shepherd. These include In Lambeth with Bob Peck, and King Lear with Oliver Cotton. A visit to Egypt in 1990 led to exhibitions of paintings completed there and she took her interest in Egypt further by reading for a BA and then an MA in Egyptian Archaeology.
In 2001, as a direct result of the stupendous Wimbledon Final between Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic she was inspired to sculpt Pat Rafter in bronze. She worked from one of her own photographs taken while he was serving. As a result of the interest this bronze created she was asked to sculpt a bronze of the Wimbledon winner annually, again from her own photographs. Last year Louise was also commissioned to produce a bronze of David Beckham scoring the goal against Greece that put England into the World Cup Final.
She says that her continuing passion in her sculptures is the portrayal of movement. As with her paintings of actors, she has also used movement to portray story and character in her maquette of Edward Alleyn. She lives and works in south east London.
What sort of man was our Founder, and what prompted the creation of his Foundation?
An American President was being briefed by an aide for an interview he was to give to a Senator known only to him by reputation. "You must remember, Mr President, that Senator X is a self-made man". "I am pleased to hear it", the President replied, "it relieves the Almighty of a terrible responsibility!"
Edward Alleyn, actor, manager, impresario and property developer was certainly a 'self-made man'. But does that mean that he was the kind of man the President's retort implies - conceited, self-serving and concerned chiefly for his own reputation?
To answer this question we must think ourselves back into a world very different from our own, a world in which the Providence of God and a judgement to come were certainties as fixed in the public consciousness as the recurrence of the seasons and the fact of death - and without the benefit of anaesthetics or palliative drugs.
It was a world in which the common good was not sufficiently served by a conventional respect for law, the occasional casting of a vote and some degree of political correctness. A world in which care for the elderly and education for the young could not be left to the fiat of elected representatives however enthusiastically supported but which depended very largely on the good-will of the more fortunate members of society; and where alms-giving was not an hobby for those who like that sort of thing but a duty owed by a creature to his Creator.
This was a world of which Alleyn was very much a part and whose assumptions he seems to have willingly embraced. Of course that is a consideration which cuts both ways; where religion is universal it can very easily be formal. The churchwardenship of the Parish of St Saviour's, Southwark, for example, which Alleyn enjoyed for many years, brought with it considerable prestige as well as a few 'perks'. And he was not indifferent to prestige; he spent time and money on securing a coat of arms for himself and his family and was at one time hopeful of securing a knighthood as well. But this does not mean that his convictions were insincere.
Consider this note appended to his accounts for the year 1620-21: "Blessed be the Lord God Everlasting, the only giver and preserver of all. Amen". Not every dealer in real estate, even in those days, would have added such words, as Alleyn did almost every year - particularly since the record was made for his own use solely, there being no Inspector of Taxes to demand it from him!
Consider, too, the opening sentence of his Will, made only a few days before illness claimed him,..."first and principally I commend my soul to Almighty God my merciful Creator, and to Jesus Christ my most loving Saviour..." and later in this same document, "...my body I will to the earth from whence it came without any vain funeral pomp or show..." Can we really put these sentiments down to a death-bed conversion?
Moreover Alleyn's provision both for the occupants of his alms-houses and the 'poor scholars' of his College makes it clear that their spiritual welfare and, in the case of the scholars, their religious education was a very large part of his concern. His own regular attendance at Communion with the 'poor brethren and sisters' in the Chapel he had created for them amply confirms this. Nor did he hesitate to rebuke those 'Preachers' who failed to appear at the proper time for Divine Service!
His religious views were, for his day, fairly liberal; he seems to have been willing to converse with many who did not share his convictions - in regard, for example, to public entertainment on a Sunday. But this gives us no reason to doubt the sincerity of his devotional utterances, nor his motives in creating an 'Hospital'.
Our generation may have a greater faith than did Edward Alleyn in shared responsibility and the democratic process, though even that is open to question. But even if we have, that scarcely justifies us in ignoring or impugning the generosity of an earlier age - a generosity from which we still benefit - nor in denying the sincerity of those like our Founder who regard such generosity as a logical response to God's Gift.
Nick Earle taught mathematics at Dulwich College before becoming Headmaster of Bromsgrove School. He is the author of a number of books, including the polemical What's wrong with the Church? And most recently Does God Make Sense?