Members of the Wennington School Old Scholars Association joined the team at PETT last week for Wennington's annual archive event, five full days dedicated to working on their school archives – and what a productive week it was!Over five days the eleven Wenningtonians managed to digitise over 440 items, cataloguing several collections including (but not exclusively) material from former French teacher Roger Gehrhardt ; Kenneth and Eleanor Barnes' Christmas newsletters; the Sunday Assembly talks of teacher and poet Brian Hill, given by his widow, Irene Hill, herself a former music teacher at the school. Many personal photographs were brought, shared and scanned, as well as material from the Wennington School Senate book and some talks from Headmaster Kenneth Barnes' time at Bedales School.
Archivist Matt Naylor spent most of the week under a pile of boxes as he migrated the existing Kenneth Barnes (KCB) catalogue into our new database system. He also found time to conduct a full overview of the material, and compiled a long-overdue detailed description of the extensive Wennington School Archives that came to PETT in 1998.
Over twelve previous oral histories were summarised and catalogued - On the experience of reading and listening to other people's reflections on the School while writing summaries of them, one ex-pupil remarked that it was like 'shining a torch into the darkest corners of a room'. Furthermore, four new recordings were made -, one with a former pupil interviewing another for over two hours.
But that's not all! Transcripts were made of Trinity Catholic School's production of 'Mal-er-juhs-ted', and a short screening of the performance gave a flavour of the work involved in that aspect of the 'Therapeutic Living' project. Material was written and recorded for the Wennington website, which itself was discussed at length, the group deciding to push forward to devise and maintain their own Joomla website (watch this space for more on that!)
An interesting discussion was had about the possibility of becoming involved with an international peace-tree planting project which prompted Craig to bring out a large metal pole which had once been in the grounds of the Henderson Hospital, and has inscribed upon it in Japanese Kanji characters 'Sekai jinrui ga heiwa de arimasu you ni' ["Praying for peace for all people's of the world]". In typical Wennington fashion, plans were soon hatched to create a roof and base for this and create a feature in the grounds of the Barns Centre. If this could coincide with a tree planting ceremony, even better!
A palpable absence this week was Tom James, the Wennington Association's 'PETT liaison' who sadly passed away very recently. But in what was a PETT Archive Weekend first, members of the Wennington group held a cross-Atlantic Skype conversation with Tom's oldest friend, with whom Tom fled from the East End of London to Ledston School in Yorkshire when both were children. Tom was eventually allowed to return and stay, leading him to say that he was the only person who had run away to a school for maladjusted children; and it was from there that he went on to Wennington. It was a wonderful conversation. Poems that one ex-pupil wrote were also read aloud to the group, touching powerful shared emotions and memories of a remarkable man; and after some reflection, there was a general consensus that Tom, who was always one for getting on and getting the job done, would have been proud of all that had been achieved during the Archive Week.
That's not to say it was all work and no play. As always, this event brought people together, creating a time and space to reflect and reminisce, a place to discuss future directions, time to catch up with friends, and even time for two ex-pupils to build a Stirling engine!
With the help of Wennington Old Scholars - who helped us to pioneer the first such gathering ten years ago - , the model of the 'Archive Weekend' which was developed throughout the 'Therapeutic Living' project with Wennington and four other communities, continues to evolve and expand. It hasbecome a key and defining feature of the Archive and Study Centre and the work that we do here. If you are interested in holding your own tailored Archive and Oral History event please contact a member of the team. For more about Wennington and the Association please visit their website (www.wenningtonschool.org.uk - watch this space for developments!).
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