On a glorious summer day (29th June) the warmest of the year so far, the whole school gathered to celebrate Founders’ Day.

The proceedings of the day started with the traditional Commemoration Service at the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin in Calne. Given the hot weather, it was good to be in the coolness of St Mary’s Church for the service. We were accompanied by Mr Chris Totney, on the piano, and we enjoyed enthusiastic singing from the congregation throughout the ceremony. The Reverend Peter Giles, who was previously Chaplain at the school until 2013 spoke eloquently on the subject of vocation, reminding the Leavers of the rich Christian heritage of which they were part and of how they could continue to live out their faith in the years to come. The Chamber Choir sang two anthems, including a very poignant version of Amazing Grace. We were also privileged to the premiere performance, by the Junior Consort, of a new work by Mr Totney, based on words by Walter de la Mere. It was a lovely composition and very fitting for the occasion. As ever, the final hymn provoked some tears amongst the Leavers, but all in all it was a very special service and a wonderful way to commence the day.

The day was filled with music, art and celebration. In school, visitors viewed and appreciated the Founders’ Day Art Exhibition, a celebration of the artistic talent and creativity of the girls, with more than 100 pieces featured and every year group represented. Parents were encouraged to take time to explore the exhibition and admire the range of artistic expression delivered by the school’s emerging artists.

Music in the Marquee was underway before lunch with performances by our UVI Leavers: Amy and Michaela commenced the proceedings with The Rainbow Connection and Amy went on to a very moving performance of her Coldplay solo, Yellow. Music Scholars Tasha and Millie entertained the crowd with a beautiful ‘cello duet', and fellow string-player Michaela gave a heartfelt rendition of Kodaly’s Adagio. Ila and Hannah, both Music Scholars, each performed solo works; Ila gave a skillful piano performance of When I look at you, and Hannah reprised her scintillating showcase piece Brazilian Overture. Tasha returned to the stage with the rest of the String Quartet for a performance of one of Mozart’s chamber masterpieces, and a Blues quartet comprised of Kirsten, Hannah, Sienna and Mr Totney took to the stage for the second performance of Kirsten’s highly-accomplished A-Level composition. String Sinfonia concluded the set with a performance of the ever-popular Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. All the Leavers will be greatly missed by the Music Department for their terrific contribution over the years; they have inspired future generations of Calne musicians, and leave memories of many great performances.

While families enjoyed picnics in sunshine, or the much-sought-after shaded areas, the UVI Leavers and their parents, along with VIPs and Guests, also enjoyed a special champagne reception.

It was soon time for everyone to make their way to the Main Marquee for the Prizegiving Ceremony. Chair of Governors, Mr Svante Adde, opened the proceedings by acknowledging the Governors, thanking Dr Kirk and her staff for their hard work and commitment and saying a fond farewell to those Governors who were moving on, thanking them for their generous contributions, before handing on to Headmistress, Dr Felicia Kirk.

Dr Kirk opened by thanking all those involved with the Commemoration Service, particularly The Reverend Peter Giles for his inspirational address which perfectly captured the values and spirit of the school’s founders. She then welcomed our Guest Speaker, Professor Heather McGregor CBE, the Executive Dean of the Edinburgh Business School and author of two wise, funny and clever books – Mrs Moneypenny’s Financial Advice for Independent Women and Careers Advices for Ambitious Women. Dr Kirk went on to explain that it has been a year of huge progress and achievement by all the girls and she was enormously proud of everyone. She thanked the teaching staff for their outstanding dedication and the efforts of the equally hardworking non-teaching staff, alongside the PGSM for their ongoing support and all the families, friends and supporters who make the school the thriving place it is today. A special thanks was given to Svante Adde for his support during his first year as Chair of Governors, noting that the time he dedicates to the role, as well as the skills he brings, are much appreciated.

Dr Kirk then went on to praise the UVI Leavers who have ‘worked hard, sometimes also played hard, and – individually and collectively – they are jolly good company!’ She commented that they will always be a special group to her, as they are the first cohort she has seen through their seven years at Calne and she has ‘seen them grow up’. She praised their perseverance and achievements throughout their school career, which have been impressive, including, very importantly, the school’s best-ever set of GCSE results!

A special vote of thanks was given to the Prefect Team under the outstanding leadership of Hannah, and ably supported by Sylvia and Charka as Deputy Head Girls; their leadership has been greatly valued.

She also paid tribute to leaving staff and thanked them for their enormous contribution to the school and to the lives of many, many girls over the years.

Dr Kirk then commenced a thought-provoking and optimistic address focused on ‘megatrends’, that exist on a global level, but ultimately affect every one of us; the threats to our environment, the impact of a growing aging population and globalisation. Each of these challenges also brings opportunities for change and to move society forward. She hoped that the girls would find it a motivating and exciting prospect to build on their unique talents and on everything learnt at Calne, to help the world tackle the issues that face us all. Dr Kirk added that by providing an inspiring, forward-thinking and relevant education, St Mary’s had equipped them well to do just that.

Her address concluded with some rousing words for the Leavers, from a speech made by the famous suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, in 1899, ‘You must not labour simply for yourselves, simply to be rich or prosperous – but … do something in your day and generation that should make the community in which you live better, purer and nobler for your work’. Though these words may have been spoken long ago, they still resonate and are just as relevant for our times.

Our Guest Speaker, Professor Heather McGregor CBE, then took to the podium to deliver a very original and creative account of the secrets to her success, focusing on three things she wished she knew as a young woman. Firstly, the ‘value of a good hand bag’ and accessorising her bag with a copy of the Financial Times, in order to be taken seriously. Her point being, that it takes just 13 milliseconds for a person’s brain to process an image, and first impressions count. Secondly, to ‘never, ever give up on your dream’, and, finally, there is no such sentence as ‘I can’t do it’, the reality is that you can’t do it… alone. Everything that you personally achieve in life is with the help and support of others and you, in turn, can help and support others to fulfil their dreams.

She finished with a flying analogy (she became a pilot aged 47): ‘You can never have too much fuel, height or runway’ and as a Calne girl, the 2019 Leavers are well poised to go flying.

The Prizegiving then followed and Dr Kirk praised the girls, before introducing Head Girl, Hannah.

Hannah delivered a heartfelt speech filled with funny, sweet and insightful anecdotes relating to the UVI Leavers time at Calne, before concluding with words of wisdom from Winnie the Pooh, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

Dr Kirk then closed the proceedings by wishing the Leavers well and reminding them that they will always be a member of this community and always a ‘Calne Girl’. She then invited them to take to the podium one final time for their Leavers’ parting gifts from the school, before they exited the marquee to the music of The Great Escape!

Tea-time performances in the Music Marquee followed from many of the school’s major ensembles: Big Band, Wind Ensemble, Strictly Strings all appeared, plus a lovely vocal duet, piano solo and duet piano performances.

In all, it was a sincere, warm-hearted send off to our 2019 Leavers, who will be remembered as an energetic, socially conscious and generous year group, who then went on to enjoy their magical ‘secret garden’ themed evening at the Lily Ball.

To view the slideshow of prize winners for the named prizes, see below: