Oundle School used its annual Culture Week, which took place this year from 23-26 June, to explore the theme of ‘The Bohemian Life’. A cross-curricular initiative for Year 8s, Culture Week links areas such as literature, music, art, drama, movement, film, philosophy, science and explores how they fit into the global landscape.
The week took the students fully out of the normal school curriculum and, in line with the idea of bohemianism, activities centred on counter-culture, freedom of expression and revolution against conformity.
Creativity was an overarching feature of the activities on offer. In literature sessions, pupils looked at a selection of texts that challenge traditional approaches, ranging from comic books to Private Eye to Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. There were then opportunities to write for themselves in one of these ‘challenging’ styles.
Further artistic pursuits saw students engage in the ‘Flower Power’ movement – the symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War – by creating their own flowers using a variety of paper folding methods. Many of these were added to a ‘flower power jacket’, while others became part of a decorative bouquet. In addition, Design Technology sessions explored thehippy counter culture by decorating plain chefs’ jackets, before wearing them as a statement of their own individuality.
Art focus culminated in a day visit to Cambridge. Pupils joined an artist at Kettle’s Yard to look at the work of Henri Gaudier Brzeska. They heard an introduction to his work before having an opportunity to create masterpieces of their own, by carving images from art soap using a range of tools.
Other distinct parts of the week included Baz Luhrmann’s musical, Moulin Rouge. Students turned film critics to watch and review the film, which is set in a fantasy CGI Paris of the 1890s. The dance sessions, meanwhile, used the soundtrack to explore how emotions are expressed through music. Music itself was focused on through bringing to life the story of Puccini’s 1897 opera La Boheme, using musical excerpts from the 2009 film version.
Critical thinking sessions examined democracy and attitudes to government. Pupils engaged in debate to question and critique the leadership of today’s society, exploring preconceptions about British government.
Speaking about Culture Week, Oundle’s director of studies, Ben Evans, commented: “[it offers] a framework that is unconstrained by syllabus and exams. Culture Week 2014 intended to challenge conformity, to promote originality.”