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All the World’s a Stage…

It’s been a long time in the designing, planning, fundraising and construction, but on Saturday our school’s outside stage was open for business. With an awful lot of hard work, what started out as one child’s drawing has, rather brilliantly, been turned into a reality.

The project to redesign our outside spaces really started off in 2009 with the school’s ‘Olympic Vision’, when all sections of the school community were asked the question ‘what do you want the school to be like in 2012?’ At the time this seemed a long time in the future, but as we know, time flies when you’re having fun. The answer however was ‘Green: we want the school to look and be a greener place’ – and looking at the expanse of tarmac that was the lower playground, it was easy to see why.

The design process started with a competition for children of all ages, who were invited to draw the things they wanted to see in their playground. All the ideas generated were put on display and children were asked to stick a little coloured spot on the ideas they liked. It was quickly apparent that a stage was going to feature in the overall scheme.

Parent and landscape architect, Lucy Jenkins, very generously volunteered her expertise, enthusiasm and determination, and it wasn’t long before really exciting plans were unveiled for the total transformation of the school grounds. Lucy’s vision was to utilise the school’s topography and create what she saw as a natural extension of Highgate Woods. The work went out to tender, but with the scheme coming in at a little over £300,000 it was clear that a strategy would be needed to realise our plans.

What has happened over the last four years has been nothing short of miraculous. Our brilliant PSA has worked tirelessly and bit-by-bit the money has come in. Our fundraiser, Claire Ashworth, has relentlessly pursued all manner of grant applications, Bellway Homes, responsible for the development on Church Road, generously agreed to supply all materials and contributions have come in from so many people – some for large amounts, others for smaller sums, including children who have donated their pocket money.

Special thanks go to Stephen MacCabe, a local resident and director of Cape Construction, who provided his company’s expertise and resources to bring the project to fruition, and to our team of Kosovan builders who have been at school pretty much every day for the last six weeks to ensure the Saturday’s deadline was met. Their determination to get the job done to such a high standard has been an inspiration for many, including the children who have checked on their progress every day. It’s quite possible that this experience may lead to future careers in construction.

A conversation with one of our grandparents amused me, as she recounted how similar in proportions our stage is to that at the Olivier, recounting a scene she performed at the National Theatre in the 1970s with Albert Finney, Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Ben Kingsley. However the success of any design really depends on how people interact with the space that has been created. It was so exciting to see the stage in use at Saturday’s Summer Fair, with children free-running up and down the levels, the ‘Rainbow Dance’ club providing the stage’s first live performance and parents and children from our school community lounging on the terraces, basking in the sunshine and soaking up the atmosphere of this special day. The lower playground has officially been transformed – but we’re not done yet. With the force of the school community behind us, this time next year we’ll be celebrating the transformation of the top playground!

William