Christ Church hosts Shakespeare Schools Foundation fundraising dinner

On Wednesday 6th December Christ Church hosted a fundraising dinner for the Shakespeare Schools Foundation (SSF) at the Deanery.

Shakespeare Schools Foundation is a cultural education charity that works to promote educational attainment, especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts, giving young people across the UK the confidence to succeed in life. It has worked with 280,000 young people since being founded in 2000, including pupils from every community, background and school type nationwide, engaging diverse groups including those with special educational needs and from minority ethnic backgrounds, as well as being passionate about reaching those living in areas of deprivation. Every year, they help thousands of young people become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious, as well as helping them to change their attitude to working.

SSF uses Shakespeare as a catalyst to uncover the most pressing themes of today in a neutral, creative forum. Students have the opportunity to explore topics like racism, gender equality and mental health. As a result, confidence increases and friendships flourish. The annual Shakespeare Schools Festival is their flagship project and the world’s largest youth drama project. Months of preparation culminate in exhilarating performance evenings in professional theatres nationwide, a life-changing moment for the young people who are involved. Alongside the Festival, they offer curriculum resources and workshops for teachers and students from all school types.

The dinner was hosted by the Dean, Martyn Percy, and his wife Emma, and was attended by guests including Andrew Jackson (Chair of SSF), Ruth Brock (CEO of SSF), Alanna Beeken (SSF Festival Director) and Francesca Ellis (SSF Creative Manager) alongside several donors to SSF, as well as Caroline Jordan (headteacher of Headington School ), Professor Colin Burrow (Senior Research Fellow in Renaissance Literature at All Souls College), Professor Henry Woodhuysen (Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford) and Jamila Gavin (children’s author and SSF patron).

Following a tour of the Upper Library there was a drinks reception in the Deanery, which concluded with performances by school pupils who are part of Shakespeare Schools Foundation programmes. The guests were first treated to a dramatic scene from Macbeth, featuring Macbeth and Lady Macbeth played excellently by pupils from Fitzwaryn Special School, after which we were transported to Verona, with the Deanery staircase becoming the setting for Romeo and Juliet’s famous balcony scene, superbly acted by pupils from Headington School.

Before dinner, the Dean gave a speech in which he referenced the stories linked to Christ Church, including the fact that the Deanery itself was once the home of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, as well as talking about the amazing opportunities provided to students through the Shakespeare Schools Foundation. During the meal there was a brief intermission, in which there was a brilliant performance of a scene from Hamlet, featuring the ‘to be or not to be' soliloquy, by pupils from Kenyngton Manor Primary, who played Hamlet and Horatio. Hamlet and Horatio explained what it had been like to perform a Shakespeare play, with young Horatio adding for the benefit of guests that Hamlet was really a very complicated story. Following this performance, Ruth Brock thanked guests for their support and spoke further about the impact of SSF.

We were delighted to host the dinner and to see such accomplished performances from the pupils who were involved. To find out more about the Shakespeare Schools Foundation, take a look at their website.