We were fortunate to have another beautiful, sunny day on 1st July to celebrate our 144th Founders’ Day!  The day commenced in St Mary’s Church in Calne for the Commemoration Service, where the School Chaplain, the Reverend Jonathan Beach, welcomed everyone, in particular the Guest Speaker, the Reverend Alison Morley

Music was at the heart of the service. Performances by the Chamber Choir and Junior Consort lifted everyone’s spirits: the senior girls sang an arrangement of Anton Bruckner’s Ave Maria, and John Rutter’s For the beauty of the Earth, the latter at the request of the UVI Leavers.  This was Junior Consort’s first performance at Founders’ Day and they impressed with their sensitive rendition of Jools Scott’s A New Day, a fitting image for those for who are moving on to pastures new.  Mr Totney played voluntaries by Rheinberger and Bach, and the choirs were directed by Rebecca Cavill and Bethan Dudley Fryar.

Revd Alison Morley delivered a thought-provoking Address, based upon the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. She urged the audience to consider the Foundational Blessing ‘blessed are the poor’, to let go of the dependence on our wealth and ‘shiny things’. She considered the meaning of ‘blessed are you who mourn’ and examined the importance and meaning of ‘blessed are the meek’.   She urged the UVI Leavers, when they face future struggles, to question whether they have forgotten who they truly are, or have let others define their worth. Revd Morley concluded by saying that through ‘poverty’, ‘mourning’ and ‘meekness’, we are blessed ‘with the abundance of a loving heart’.   

Following the Commemoration Service, ‘Music in the Marquee’ featured performances by the UVI Leavers, including the Opera Ensemble with Joyce singing Puccini’s Nessum Dorma.  Charlotte  played a clarinet trio by Bruch, and Gina and Bel gave polished piano performances.  Rosie and Eve  each sang favourite vocal solos from their time at St Mary’s.  Adam Staines directed the UVI Vocal Ensemble in a performance of The Parting Glass, and the school’s rock band, led by Millie, played two numbers from their repertoire to finish the slot: Millie was joined by Charlotte on bass guitar, and Hannah on drums. 

The annual Founders’ Day ‘Art Exhibition Trail’ – a celebration of the artistic creativity and talent of our girls - was stunning and everyone enjoyed viewing the pieces exhibited around the school.  More than 100 artworks were featured, with each year group represented and the quality of the work was exceptional.  

After the girls had enjoyed picnics with their families, it was time for the Prize Giving in the Main Marquee.  Chair of Governors, Mr Simon Knight, congratulated Dr Felicia Kirk, all the staff, parents and girls on the recent, excellent ISI report.  He thanked fellow Governors for their contribution, paying particular tribute to Mr Michael Pipes who steps down after 15 years and welcomed four new Governors, Professor Ann Fitz-Gerald, Mr Martin Harris and Dr Linda Ashton; Cate Bell, current Chairman of the Calne Girls’ Association, will also join the Governors from September.  John Moore, Chairman of the Foundation Trust, was thanked for his lasting legacy as he steps down and Mrs Lisa Gates was welcomed as the new Chairman of the CFT.

Mr Knight concluded by thanking parents who had donated to the school’s ‘Vision for Sport’, launched four years ago and successfully run by Mrs Cari Depla and her team, confirming that work on the new Sports Hall would commence on 3rd July.

Headmistress, Dr Felicia Kirk, then extended a warm welcome to the whole school community. She highlighted the inspectors’ findings, regarding the supportive atmosphere of the school: ‘Pupils’ academic and personal development is greatly enhanced by the outstanding relationships between pupils and staff’ and praised the girls, who the inspectors considered as ‘bold, resourceful, articulate and well-rounded individuals who have the capacity and confidence to shape our world.

Dr Kirk praised the ‘creative, independent-minded, compassionate and down-to-earth’ UVI Leavers, giving special mention to the whole prefect team for their hard work, in particular Head Girl Jess and her Deputies, Hannah and Phoebe, highlighting what a great example they had set to the other girls.

The focus of Dr Kirk’s address then turned to the world into which the UVI Leavers are venturing into – one which seems to echo the words of Heraclitus back in 5th century BC, ‘The only thing that is constant is change’ .  Dr Kirk alluded to the changes we have seen over the past year – from Brexit to the election of President Trump - and the uncertainties that face our countries. She highlighted that sometimes these issues seem very distant, as we can all be self-absorbed and pre-occupied with personal concerns – something that politicians have also succumbed to, with personal rivalry and personal ambition seemingly coming before all else. Dr Kirk gave some very witty examples of this relentless focus on the self and our ‘first world problems’ through quoting some tweets, including, ‘Homeland Security at Dulles just confiscated my jar of chocolate spread.  As far as I am concerned, the terrorists have won”!

Dr Kirk’s message to the girls was to aim to see the bigger picture and cultivate empathy and a global perspective, having the independence of mind to form their own views and to stick to them with resilience and courage.  She commented on the fact that in the recent General Election, out of the ten main parties, seven of these had been led by women – demonstrating how things have changed over the years, even since she was a girl in the 60s and 70s in the US, when there were equal rights demonstrations tackling gender inequality.  She highlighted that even today there is still gender inequality, with The New York Times recently reporting on ‘The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women’.  She urged the girls to speak their minds and to remember that there is no limit or ceiling in what they do, if they set their mind to it.

Dr Kirk concluded by saying she is confident that the UVI Leavers are in the best possible position to deal with challenges and opportunities that they will face; ‘the school is in great shape and is looking forward to continuing our important work for many years to come’.

Dr Kirk then introduced Guest Speaker Major Kate Philp who delivered an inspirational address, on this, her third visit to St Mary’s Calne.  Her speech centred around the ‘ex’ factors – her strategy and approach to problem solving.  These are the Explore mode – being open-minded, and generating opinions to solve; Express – identifying important information to be able to form intelligence and make a plan; Examine – how to reflect, acknowledge what we have achieved while also learning from mistakes.  Major Philp gave examples of this from her own experiences: from exploring as a child to learning how to lead during her time at Sandhurst.  She recounted her experiences in Iraq where she was in command of soldiers on operational tour, to Afghanistan where she led a team on the front line, being tested and needing moral courage to deal with one of her team who was not comfortable being led by a woman.  After an Improvised Explosive Device put an end to her tour in Afghanistan, her injuries resulted in her electing to have her leg amputated below the knee, with the knowledge that at least she would still be able to do the sports she loves.  Major Philp then touched on her trek to the South Pole as part of an expedition organised by Walking with the Wounded, admitting that, with hauling sledges over rough terrain in extreme cold and struggling to both eat and breathe, it was both ‘miserable’ as well as being a privilege to experience!  From this, she examined what she had achieved, and reframed in her own mind what success meant to her. Unable to ski every day in the conditions, Kate realised that, as a leader, you also need to know that it is OK to ask for help, that you first need to conquer self-leadership.

Major Philp stressed to the girls that life is full of challenges, ‘remember leadership is a privilege not a power trip’ and urged them to learn from their mistakes and seek out the opportunities in difficulties. She concluded, ‘Be an example…. Be excited, life is an adventure, make it count!’

Dr Kirk thanked Major Philp for her inspiring and motivational words and this was followed by the Prize Giving.*  The Company Cup this year was awarded to Grosstete, in a closely-fought competition. 

Head Girl, Jess, then gave her vote of thanks, followed by a very witty and eloquent speech, contesting Tatler’s view that St Mary’s Calne is a ‘sensible choice.. for sensible girls’, when in reality the feisty, boisterous, creative and ingenious girls certainly don’t match this description! Jess lauded the extensive opportunities open to girls at St Mary’s and mentioned some of her amazing highlights – including hiking in the Himalayas and the History trip to Russia.  Jess concluded that the St Mary’s girls have the grit and determination to overcome all obstacles  - ‘once a Calne girl, always a Calne girl’ and thanked Dr Kirk for having provided such amazing opportunities for all the girls.

Dr Kirk then brought the Prize Giving to a close, wishing the UVI Leavers success for their future, as they processed with their prizes out of the marquee in fitting style, to the music from The Great Escape!

The tea-time performances in the Music Marquee showcased the work of junior and senior ensembles: among the instrumental ensembles, the Big Band, Strictly Strings, String Quartet and Wind Band played, interspersed by vocal items from Worship Group, the cast of the Junior Musical (all LIV and MIV), LV Vocal Ensemble and Staff Choir, who closed the set with Lean on me.  The LV Vocal Ensemble sang  Don’t worry about me by Frances, and Maia, as winner of the 2017 song writing competition, performed her poignant song  Home Again.   

After a truly glorious day of celebration, reflection and excitement, it was then time for the UVI Leavers to prepare for their much-anticipated evening celebration – the Lily Ball!


* Current parents may view the list of main prize winners and photos by clicking here.