King Alfred’s Sixth-form Students recently invaded the Vale and Downland Museum to stage two evenings of Victorian Mayhem consisting of presentations, informal talks, music, crafts, activities and drama.
With support from the museum’s Education and Learning Access Officer Mel Rowntree and the academy’s Lead for Academic Enrichment, Pam Stokell, a group of Year 12 students planned and resourced two evenings based on The Victorians featuring various activities and talks.
The Museum contracted Actress and Youth Theatre Teacher and Director Nicola Moran to work with students in putting together an adaptation of the Interrupted Wedding scene from the National Theatre Production of Jane Eyre, allied with the Victorian theme. In just five hours they came up with a powerful and emotional drama and dance performance that stunned their audience.
The evenings concluded with a grand finale in the Museum’s entrance hall, with up-and-coming local band of King Alfred’s Sixth Formers The Wayfarers – with technical sound and light support from George Jackson of JT Stage Productions, who is also an alumnus of King Alfred’s Academy.
Over 350 attended over both nights, including KA’s students from across all year groups and Year 5 and 6 pupils from many of the local primary schools, along with parents and teachers, many of whom brought their families to enjoy the festivities.
Upon arrival, guests were presented with a programme (designed by Matt Chambers) and labelled with a Victorian Name to be used for the remainder of the evening. Among the many popular attractions on offer were talks on the Wantage tramway (led by Michael van Der Riet and Josie Ambrose); an apothecary’s stall diagnosing people’s gruesome Victorian ailments (with a very convincing performance by Lizzie Ratcliffe) and a Dispensary where the attending Victorian Druggists assisted people to grind and mix up their own healing tinctures using natural Victorian ingredients (manned variously by Lucy Evans, Hannah Hooker, Freya Royan and others); a highly informative presentation and fossil-handling session by Henry McClintock (in role as Fossil-collector Mary Anning) and Ryan Prydderch (as Wantage’s own fossil collector Mr Edward Davy) ; calligraphy sessions run by Matt Chambers and others; a Victorian Bagatelle Contest run by Caleb White and Benedict Hutchinson; Victorian crafts and a fan-communication talk by Vicki Spits and Hannah Hooker, along with Adelle Spurway, Sinead O’Leary, Ella Newbould, Heidi Loughlin, Ruth Harris and many others; Victorian object handling sessions run by David Mcdougall, Allex Thacker and James Camden.
Over in the museum Victorian kitchen, Katie McDonagh, Alex Birch, Izzie Coneboy and Lauren Laybourne ran a vibrant session on Victorian kitchen practices; and Lucy Evans brought a tingle to the spine of everyone who stopped by the candle-lit market place to listen to her ghost stories.
The entire evening was permeated by the haunting voice of Molly Rigby as she sang impromptu Victorian melodies through the museum’s rooms and corridors.
One primary school parent commented: “We are so impressed with KA’s students. My daughter really enjoyed the evening and we hope the students put on more themed events in the future. The students were a credit to KA’s, they were all excellent hosts and really engaged with the children.”
Another added: “Please can we pass on our huge thanks to the amazing young adults at the museum last night. They were professional beyond their years and the whole event was well organised, prepared and thought through. We really enjoyed it. Well done KA’s!” Curator of the Museum, Suzy Tilbury, was ecstatic at the success of the weekend: “The entire museum has been transformed by these students and has taken on a totally new role.”