Wellington’s fifth annual arts festival performance, ZOOM

1st November saw the stage set in the College dome for ZOOM, a one-off, entirely original multimedia performance based around the works of Simon Armitage, the UK’s leading poet and was set to specially commissioned music by award-winning composer and musician, John Harle. Part-concert, part-poetry recital, part-dance and part-light show, ZOOM was the culmination of three days of intense preparation and artistic exploration involving 700 of Wellington’s pupils, from year 4 all the way up to year 13. In addition to working with Simon Armitage, pupils prepared synchronised movements with Round Midnight, professional drama group and a firm favourite of previous festivals, while acclaimed musical director Jeremy Avis conducted the pupil choir, speakers and band. Additionally, a light show, devised by UK award-winning sound architect Richard Scott, added another dimension to the performance.

In his opening address, Simon Armitage explained the source of inspiration for ZOOM: “I’m delivering this in deliberately astronomical and intergalactic terms inspired by the title poem of the performance. Zoom! The poem travels from a small terraced house to the far end of the universe in just a couple of minutes, like an expanding address written down by a child. Poems transcend mere earthbound boundaries and borders, breeze through checkpoints, and go wherever they want, whenever they like. Poems are little conveyances with enormous range, vehicles that can transport us from one side of the cosmos to another in just a few sentences. Musical notes do the same thing, and so do images and lights and movements, so in combination with each other, just imagine what kind of acceleration and propulsion we have in store for us this afternoon.”

ZOOM was an intense theatrical and artistic production that involved the whole school, emphasising ‘performance’ as much as ‘process’, thereby evolving the customary design of previous festivals in which small-scale workshops and hands-on sessions have been shifted to one of large-scale rehearsals for a single performance. Much like previous festivals, however, pupils were given the chance to meet an exciting array of artists from all manner of professional backgrounds to learn directly from their unique perspectives. This was a chance to deepen their appreciation of poetry, performance and music by working together with their peers from across the year groups, helping them to understand the importance of lending their individual strengths to a larger collaborative process.

Stephen Jacobi, the festival’s director, also talked about the importance of the annual arts festival for giving pupils the chance to experience wholly new ideas and perspectives as they learn.

“Wellington believes the arts are of equal importance to other subjects such as maths and science, and the arts festival is a reflection of this. Being part of a performance, especially one as challenging as this, means pupils must show dedication and hard work. They must come together as a whole to work towards a single goal. They are taking a risk. This is important for their development, as we want our pupils not only to be prepared to take risks, but also be prepared to fail.”

Principal, Eleanor Prescott, emphasised that: “Wellington, and our pupils, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and take risks. It is part of our philosophy to challenge current ideals in education. Wellington strives to provide pupils with opportunities to perform, create and present; to build confidence and encourage competence, as well as inspiring all of us to reach for the top.”

It’s been a great source of pride for our Wellington community to see the annual arts festival grow and evolve each year.