An audience of over 550 had the wool lifted from their eyes last night, as Dr David Starkey talked at Prior’s Field school on the topic of Magna Carta.
Celebrated as a cornerstone of democracy, Dr Starkey revealed how the Charter was in fact about political bargaining, deal making and the revolt by the rich against high taxation.
We were delighted to host pre-lecture drinks in the Oak Hall for Old Girls and Friends. Among those returning was former teacher Brenda Fox, and her husband Peter. Mrs Fox was one of 12 embroiderers involved in stitching the ‘Magna Carta embroidery’, commissioned by Runnymede Borough Council and designed by Rhoda Nevins, a member of the Royal School of Needlework, to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
The embroidery, which was three years in the making, consists of 12 A1 size panels, telling the story of how the Barons persuaded King John to agree to Magna Carta. In the ‘Runnymede’ panel below, the four figures on the lower left hand side were stitched by Brenda Fox.
On an idyllic, warm spring day in the Easter Holidays we were delighted to welcome Old Girls and Friends of Prior’s Field to tea and a special viewing of the appART exhibition. This chance to visit the school and enjoy some excellent professional art displayed in the Rose Garden and Assembly Hall was taken up by alumnae of many generations and Friends including former parents and current grandparents.
appART, one of the largest selling art exhibitions in southern England, features the work of a wide range of fine artists, sculptors and craftspeople. One of appART’s most distinguishing features is a sculpture trail in a natural setting and for the second year running this was displayed to great effect in Prior’s Field’s Gertrude Jekyll designed garden. The lawns, hedges and mature trees provided an excellent backdrop to imaginatively placed sculpture in many media and styles; pieces ranged in size from delicate glass leaves to display in a flower bed to a life-size stag in aluminium. Inside in the Hall there were over 400 paintings to enjoy as well as photographs, ceramics and glass.
Old Girls, Friends and staff chatted happily and enjoyed a cream tea in the sunshine with the sculpture studded garden as a delightful backdrop. Many memories came flooding back, particularly for those who had not revisited the school for over 50 years. There were a number of impromptu tours around the school to find familiar places and discover impressive new additions.
The success of the afternoon and the appART exhibition have inspired us to make this art tea an annual occasion. Look out for next year’s date which we will announce as soon as possible.
More than 100 Alumnae and Friends of PF joined an audience of over 700, at Prior’s Field, to hear Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE enthral with tales of a life lived at full tilt: from boyhood antics scaling the walls of Eton, to SAS selection and travel to some of the most hostile, remote parts of the world. Sir Ranulph recounted his experiences with dry wit and humility. His life of pushing boundaries and breaking records has, to date, raised £16.8m for UK charities.
He talked of the influences on his character and career the father who died when he was a baby, his first wife Ginny who masterminded many of their expeditions – and the challenges he has encountered, including near starvation, finger amputation and marauding polar bears.
His lecture was the latest in a series of Prior’s Field Culture events, always open to the wider community, that have included writers Joanna Trollope, Germaine Greer, Kate Mosse, Dame Stella Rimington and Michael Palin.
If you would like to watch the interview that Sir Ranulph gave some of our students before his lecture then please click here.
For only the second time in the school’s history the annual Christmas Carol Service was held at Prior’s Field. The whole school community, including Old Girls and Friends, congregated in a candle lit Sports Hall for the traditional 9 readings and carols. Additional music was provided by the PF community choir and individual girls.
After the service the celebrations continued with a Christmas party, featuring food and more music, which in many ways mirrored the traditional Christmas parties held at Prior’s Field in days gone by when the “supper tables would be decorated by little Christmas trees and red ribbon” and “the girls and the Old Girls would all get together to celebrate the end of term”.
Over 100 guests attended an exhibition of photographs taken by Prior’s Field pupils and Art Department staff, on Tuesday 11 March at Café Mila in Godalming.
All proceeds from the sale of photographs are going to the school’s Foundation for bursaries. Foundation Awards enable girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the school which works with educational charities to identify suitable candidates.
On Thursday 21 November an audience of over 520 Friends of Prior’s Field, Alumnae, public, parents and current pupils listened enthralled as Dame Stella Rimington, former Director General of MI5, delivered Prior’s Field’s annual Huxley Lecture.
The first female Director General, Dame Stella spoke about her life and career and entertained with tales of being ‘tapped on the shoulder’ to join British Intelligence while working in New Delhi, juggling the demands of motherhood and working undercover, flying to Moscow to make the first friendly overtures to the KGB and, in her first few months as Director General, being pursued by the British press in a campaign to reveal her identity.
Dame Stella paid tribute to her education in an all girls school which enabled her to follow her own interests. She did much to open up MI5 to women, being the first female to receive agent training and then to run her own agents.
Since retirement, Dame Stella devotes her time to writing. She published her autobiography Open Secret in 2001 and, subsequently, a series of spy fiction novels.
Before the lecture, Friends of Prior’s Field and Alumnae gathered for drinks and Prior’s Field pupils interviewed Dame Stella for the school’s radio club. At the book signing after the lecture, £1 towards bursaries was donated by Dame Stella for every book purchased.