On the morning of Wednesday 26th, we set off, an intrepid band of 19 students, and two clipboarded teachers. With students from M1 up to M3, we were a diverse group, representing numerous nationalities between us. And yet we all shared the same desires. To go to new places, meet new people, be inspired by the influences around us, share our creative energy, and collaborate on making something to be truly proud of.
The festival started properly on Thursday morning, and Stonehill students entered into the challenges put to them with gusto. In initial whole group warm-ups our students shone with enthusiasm, and during an afternoon visit to the crafts museum, they proved themselves to be both keen observers of culture, and confident improvisers. (the impromptu marriage performance in front of the Marriage Column confirmed the latter!)
Over the following three days, our students learned a broad range of theatrical techniques from renowned theatre artists. From puppetry to dance, from ensemble to lifts, they persevered and applied these skills to their growing final performance. Friendships were made with other schools, and all were suitably wowed by the generous accommodations they found themselves hosted in.
Saturday came, the audience poured into the theatre, and lights rose to reveal the fruits of the past three days labors. Our students exceeded all expectation. Sitting in the audience I was struck by how confident and characterful our students appeared on stage. All of them performed with a charm and a swagger that spoke of how comfortable they all felt in their own skin. Teachers from other schools remarked how visible this self-esteem was in our students, and wished to know what caused it. I was proud to tell them that we have a community at Stonehill where all our students are encouraged and supported to be authentically themselves.
Over the last few days, I’ve watched our students working, joking, and celebrating with children from many different schools and cultures. I’ve realized that it’s not our beautiful green campus we occupy that frees our students. Nor is it solely the teachers and the parents that support them. Rather, it is our students themselves. It’s they who allow each other to be free, and to be unapologetic for who they are and wish to be. To see this offer being extended so openly and completely to students they had met only days before filled me with pride.
To open the performance each school was asked to create a ‘ promotional’ chant. After a heated debate the group settled on.
‘We are Tigers we exist! SIS first on the list!’
Upon hearing this I couldn’t help but feel that ‘we exist’ was perhaps too meek a statement of self-aggrandisement. The students subsequently decided to choose ‘we persist!’ instead, also an admirable quality. And yet when watching them all on stage, boldly and confidently hitting their marks and openly revelling in the process as they did it, I wish they had kept the original line. Because their work has been a glorious statement of the existence of each of them as the wonderful, caring, creative, young people they are. And that’s an existence well worth shouting about.