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Hybrid Prizegiving Celebration

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Last year’s Prizegiving at Bolton School Boys’ Division had been the first one to be delivered entirely online but this one, the 106th, was the first one to go hybrid, delivered as it was to a restricted live audience of pupils, staff and governors in the Great Hall and to an online audience of parents, staff and former pupils, some of which joined from overseas. Headmaster Mr Britton introduced the evening as a ‘night to celebrate this school’. A firm believer in contextualising events, he took inspiration from the School’s Prizegiving of 1918 in which Headmaster Lipscomb addressed a school that was missing one third of its boys due to the Spanish Flu and to them returning from the First World War. Mr Lipscomb focused on celebrating the lives of the boys in school and Mr Britton said he would be doing the same – highlighting individual and collective achievements. Mass singing being forbidden, a small choir of four singing prize-winners – Jude Ashcroft, Billy Burrows, Ben Flood and Charlie Middleton - offered up the school song Forty Years On.

Mr Britton thanked the Governing Body for their ongoing commitment to the School, thanking former pupil David Mohyuddin QC who recently resigned his post as Boys’ Division Governor and welcoming Tim Taylor, another Old Boy, into the role and who then stepped up to give the Governor’s address. Mr Taylor expounded on how Prizegiving is about celebrating boys, but that it is also a good time to recall and thank the team of teachers and family behind them. Y12 student William Miles offered up the next musical interlude, playing a Schubert piano solo.

The Headmaster told how he had invited Old Boy Ian Ross to Prizegiving to deliver the prizes and who, like last year, could not attend because of the travel restrictions imposed by Covid. Once again, he had agreed to attend next summer. However, it was to the Head’s great pleasure that Assistant Head Mr Hiepko, who retires at Christmas, had agreed to deliver an address and hand out the prizes.

Mr Hiepko, who was born in Germany, recounted the story of his grandfather's and father’s upbringing in Germany. In trying to answer the question of whether we shape our destiny or our destiny shapes us, he also considered his own life and his ambition to be a teacher in the UK. His conclusion was that it was a bit of both. He felt our lives are shaped by a mixture of our own plans, accidental events and how we react to them, and the people that we encounter in our lives and the influence they have on us. He advised boys to make accidental things work for them and also to profit from others believing in you. He hoped that boys could look back on their lives and feel as lucky as he felt he had been.

The second musical solo was offered by violin prize winner Harry Adams and a Vote of Thanks was given by new School Captain Ali Ahmed.

Mr Britton then reviewed this most unusual of years. In many ways, he said, the School has lived its values rather than talked about them, showing great resilience in ‘getting on with things’. Olympiads had continued online, chess had positively prospered online with the club playing more games than ever and the MUN debating teams had enjoyed a supremely successful year, winning an unprecedented Grand Slam. Contemplating the school’s pastoral life, the Head said that during the course of the year the school had reached into parents’ homes more than he ever thought they would! He gave a special mention to the Proctors who had offered superb guidance to boys and told of being delighted at being given ‘Gold Status’ by the Anti-Bullying Alliance. He also spoke of diversity within school and how there had been mature consideration of BLM issues and Leverhulme’s past, praising teachers for giving boys the right language with which to deal with such matters. He told how boys and teachers had made appearances on national radio and tv programmes where they discussed these issues.

Despite Covid, there had still been sporting success. He recalled how floodlights had been brought onto the Levels to facilitate after school sport during the Autumn Term and how the Y13 water-polo team, unbeaten in any match throughout their years together, managed a final and emphatic victory over Manchester Grammar School. Two boys – Harry Bentham and James Blenkinship – had also represented GB at water polo, scoring three of their five goals in a recent tournament. The Head of Cricket, Mr Compton, had been given a good send-off and there had been a good number of cricket fixtures, including the playing of regular matches against the MCC, the XL Club and an Old Boys’ team.

In Drama and Music, the School had had to be creative about being creative. The Great Hall had looked like a film set for the staging of It’s a Wonderful Life earlier in the year and live theatre had recently returned outdoors at the Anderton Centre through the Lower School performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which it had collaborated with Sharples School and Bolton Octagon. The school’s Creatives magazine was also commended for containing many excellent articles. Whilst music had been restricted, there had been excellent rehearsals and recordings which had gone out virtually.

Over the course of the year, Old Boy involvement in the school had burgeoned. Working online, Old Boys from abroad had been able to join UK former pupils to offer their expertise. Rob Dobson, who gave out awards at the 2017 Prizegiving, had set up an entrepreneurship scheme for Y12 students.

Mr Britton also thanked a number of teachers that were leaving, including several that were retiring after spending over 20 years of their lives at the School, this included Mrs Edge, Mr Bleasdale, Mr McNeil and Mr Harrison.

The choir of four finished the evening, as is traditional, with the singing of Jerusalem.

You can download the Prizegiving programme here.

You can watch the event in its entirety through Part 1 and Part 2 links.

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