College Annual Prize Giving Ceremony; Flowers, Applause And Whirling Feet – Better Than The Oscars

Princethorpe College’s Annual Prize Giving Ceremony can feel a little like the Oscars. The swish of the well dressed, the chink of fizz and the rousing musical numbers definitively carving out an atmosphere of unity. In addition, there’s also the bubbling build up to the big one; the knee jiggling, dry mouthed front row of former Sixth Form students avidly speculating over who will win the much prized Princethorpe shield?

Well, this year’s ceremony was different but the same. And that neatly encapsulates what Headmaster, Mr Ed Hester’s, rousing address speech was all about. His nod to the past, in this our Golden Jubilee year, was like being wrapped in a warm Sunday afternoon blanket of tea time digestives and fire side tales as we learnt about Fr Clarkson’s 1967 overview of what then meant progress. Much giggling rippled around the Butterworth Hall in response to brow raising facts about new wash basins, enlarged tuck shops and only two, yes two, boys making it through to university way back then. Safely ensconced in the present Mr Hester ebulliently listing many of the wonderful landmark changes that the Foundation has experienced in the last decade alone. Yes, our tuck shop has also undergone extensive renovations but there has been so much more that has contributed to the school that we all know today; not least the slightly soggy but resplendent joy that was Princefest at the start of this term.

Such a partisan audience are bound to share in the delight of this celebration of hand shaking and trophy giving. And that’s what we were there to do. To reflect also on the alchemy behind the teaching profession, so neatly alluded to through Mr Hester’s quotation from Robert Bolt’s fabulous, ‘A Man for all Seasons.’ To applaud the graciousness, the dignity and the sheer hard work of all Princethorpe students; those greatest ambassadors of the College old and new. To listen to advice shared about effort and resilience – the rallying cry of Winston Churchill himself, (“continuous effort… is the key to unlocking potential”) and to thank, thank the dedication of parents, of the trustees and friends of the College community who every single day help to shape the school into far more than bricks and mortar.

This year’s annual Prize Giving Ceremony didn’t run like clockwork. But then why would we want it to? There was the moment of the ‘missing year 11s’ heart warmingly meeting with laughter and applause, the dropping of a trophy midway through Head of Sixth Form, Mrs Margaret Robinson’s, citation, there were the precarious cat walk heels worn by some of the prize recipients – and there were the unplanned tears of Mrs Robinson who was surprised by a flash mob of flowers in recognition of her twenty plus years of service. This year’s Princethorpe Shield, (the big one) winner Tilly Langford, wasn’t even at the ceremony. Committed already to a University of York orchestral performance she missed the standing ovation and smacks of applause, yet still we celebrated in her absence, because that’s what the spirit of Princethorpe is all about – uniting in recognition of the seen, the unseen, the past and the present.

And there was more.

Breaking from tradition we said it in dance. The finale of an evening of sitting and clapping culminated in the whirling feet of Old Princethorpian brothers Alasdair and Callum Spencer. Both now professional Irish dancers ‘living the dream’ (as Alasdair writes on his dance blog) they flew back home to lift our hearts and give us wings before we broke into the College hymn.

Past meets present. Present meets past. Oscars we may not be but this year’s ceremony articulated the College’s enduring ethos; that love, kindness and friendship now, more than ever are the lasting qualities shared amongst all whose time has been spent at the College.