‘Together at last!’ was the resounding feeling that resonated throughout this year’s Founders’ Day celebrations: the first large school event for almost 18 months.  It was a joyful occasion full of warmth and gratitude, with everyone expressing their heartfelt thanks for the efforts made to present the day’s events in a covid-safe way.

The proceedings of the day started with the Commemoration Service, which was held in the Main Marquee.  Given that we had to have the sides open, we were very fortunate with the weather.  Father Jonathan welcomed everyone and emphasised just how wonderful it was to be together to mark the end of the school year.  Not only was everyone encouraged to sing hymns, after a covid hiatus in congregational singing, we were very privileged to enjoy the Chamber Choir’s UK premiere performance of Make Joyful Noise unto the Lord (Psalm 100), which was written by piano tutor, Mr Chris Totney, and what joyful noise it was!  Dr Kirk then led the Founders’ Day Prayer and the Head Girl's Team gave readings that shared thoughtful sentiments that were very relevant to society today.

After the Junior Consort’s performance of ABBA's I Had a Dream, The Reverend Philip Bromiley spoke enthusiastically about the importance of speech days as a right of passage and how fitting that this year's Commemoration Service was in a tent, mirroring how the first disciples would meet.  His address touched upon the importance of community, friendship and being 'uniquely you'.

After the service, families were encouraged to enjoy the Founders' Day Art Exhibition, a wonderful celebration of the artistic flair of the school's wonderfully talented pupils. Over 100 pieces of the very best artworks created over the past year were on show throughout the school, with a particular focus on the school reception, the Bursary corridor and both levels of the Plumer Wing.  Parents were also invited to contribute to the Voices on the Wind project by creating a 'gratitude flag' that would be added to the thought-provoking art installation.

Music in the Marquee commenced before lunch with performances by our UVI Leavers followed by performances by the String Quartet, Senior Scholars' Consort, School Band and Big Band.  For many of the ensembles, this was their first public performance of the year.  It was, for everyone, a welcome return to hearing the wealth of talent amongst our amazing musicians.

As the music played, families made their way to the picnic areas.  Each boarding house was allocated their own special picnic lunch location so the girls could enjoy their picnics together while seated in their family groups.  As a special treat for our Leavers, they were each served a glass of celebratory fizz to enjoy while picnicking with their family.  

Soon it was time for everyone to make their way to the Main Marquee for the Prizegiving Ceremony.  To kick off the proceedings in high spirits, the Opera Ensemble (wearing cowboy hats!) performed a rousing medley of songs from the musical Oklahoma!, starting with 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning' - and it was, thankfully, a beautiful day.  The performance was dedicated to the Queen and Prince Philip, who had watched the musical together on their first date.

Chair of Governors, Mr Svante Adde, opened the formal proceedings by acknowledging the Governors and thanking Dr Kirk and her staff for their hard work and commitment.  He made a special mention of former Governor, Mr Hedley Ringrose, who had passed away since we had last gathered and paid tribute to his kindness and dedication to St Mary's.  He also welcomed new Governors, Mrs Deborah Harris and Mr Robert Cutler, before handing over to Headmistress, Dr Felicia Kirk.

Dr Kirk opened by thanking all those involved with the Commemoration Service, particularly The Reverend Philip Bromiley for his touching, and often humorous, address.  She then welcomed our guest speaker, the UK's foremost Royal commentator, distinguished biographer and TV presenter, Mrs Penny Junor, who would be speaking later in the proceedings.

Turning her attention to the girls, Dr Kirk said how she was ‘enormously proud of every girl in school’ for how they have dealt with the last year. It had been a year of huge challenge, in ways that none of us could have predicted.  She then expressed her gratitude to the school’s outstanding teaching staff who had risen magnificently to the extraordinary demands of the past year and of the equally hardworking non-teaching support staff, alongside the PGSM, who had been an extremely helpful sounding board this year as we all tried to navigate the ever-changing guidance in the best way possible. She then took the opportunity to thank and recognise the support of parents, grandparents and friends who all contribute to making the school the thriving place it is today.  A special thanks was also given to the Governors of the school, particularly Chairman Svante Adde, for everything they do to steer, guide and support us, especially during the difficult times of the past year.

Dr Kirk then paid tribute to leaving staff and thanked them for their enormous contribution to the school and to the many lives of the girls; she thanked them for their hard work and dedication.

Dr Kirk then went on to praise the UVI Leavers who have ‘worked hard, sometimes also played hard and – individually and collectively – have thrown themselves into everything, including Charity Week, Sleepover (raising £10k for local charity Doorway), the Fresh Face Theatre Company and starting the Cultural Society and a local chapter of Empower Her Voice.  They are passionate about social justice and social change and have led by example in those areas.’

A special vote of thanks was given to the terrific Head Girl's Team, under the outstanding leadership of Fenella as Head Girl, ably supported by Yimika and Matilda as Deputy Head Girls. They have made a fine team and have played a huge part in the life of the school; their leadership has been greatly valued.

Dr Kirk then commenced an inspiring address that reminded the girls that ‘you can change the world’ and ‘you can make a difference’, ‘every moment, therefore is precious – so try to use it well’.  But also, ‘be patient, and keep at it’ and ‘whatever you do, do it with kindness’.

Dr Kirk introduced guest speaker, Mrs Penny Junor, who took to the podium to deliver a touching address that started by saying 'of all of life's experience, leaving school is one of the most exciting!'. However, she stressed the importance of friendship, education, listening, kindness - and smiling.  She also explained that there were many measures of success, and, while finding a career you enjoy is vital, a well-balanced life with loving relationships is just as important.

She finished with some helpful thoughts on life... 'seize the day', 'enjoy every day, as you don't know what is around the corner', 'don't judge others until you've walked in their shoes', 'never part with anyone on bad terms' and 'look out for people of less privilege' and Immanuel Kant's ‘Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.’  In all, it was a speech that gave our Leavers much food for thought.

The Prizegiving then followed and Dr Kirk praised all the girls for their hard work during a difficult year, before announcing the winner of this year's Company Cup as... Osmund!  Dr Kirk then invited Head Girl, Fenella, to the lectern.

Fenella delivered an energetic speech (it's been a blast!) filled with thoughtful and amusing anecdotes relating to the 'amazing class of 2021!' who proved 'Calne girls really can do anything - thanks to technology!' before concluding - very appropriately, as England was playing in the Euro's 2020 that evening - with the words of BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme 'they think it is all over... and it is!'

Dr Kirk then closed the proceedings by wishing the Leavers well and reminding them, as is tradition, that they will always be a 'Calne Girl'. The girls were then invited to take to the stage one final time to collect their Leavers' parting gift from the school, before they exited the marquee to the sound of The Great Escape!

Then it was time for afternoon tea with warmly received picnic boxes, filled with delicious tea-time goodies, given out for guests to enjoy in their family groups, while the tea-time performances commenced in the Music Marquee.  In all, it was a truly uplifting and joyous send-off to our 2021 Leavers, who will be remembered as a socially conscious and generous year group.