Celebrating the Second Arts Festival at Wellington College International Shanghai
28 March 2016
The second Wellington College Arts Festival ran from Saturday 19th - Friday 25th March. It involved staff, parents and, of course, pupils from all three areas of the school (Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior), many of whom were off timetable for much of the time. Although the festival celebrated the arts and culture in general, this year’s thematic thread was Shakespeare, whose death in 1616, 400 years ago, was being commemorated. During the festival, pupils took part in workshops on drama, clowning, journalism, writing, performance, film-making, and storytelling. In addition, they watched films, made art, attended lectures, put on performances, and listened to music. One of the developments from last year’s event, which was built around the notion of ‘comedy’, was the involvement of parents, who were not only invited to certain events but also asked to participate, specifically in a musical concert and a drama workshop. Thus, and as a supplement to the pupils’ sessions, they attended lectures (including one on ‘Why Shakespeare is Great’), a concert of music inspired by Shakespeare, and an early evening performance that presented a showcase of the work done by children during their time spent with the award-winning drama group, Round Midnight. The idea of taking pupils off timetable stressed the important role of the arts at Wellington. 'Culture is an increasingly important aspect of the way people approach the manner in which they exist,’ the Festival Director, explained. 'Rather than being merely a branch of entertainment, it constitutes a space within which people can be playful and experimental, working out who they are.' Culture acts, therefore, as a kind of simulator, where we are able to try out different versions of our lives. These days the world changes about as much in a single month as it did in the whole of the fourteenth-century. The arts are one of the few places where we can learn how to live. As the writer Graham Greene once wrote, ‘Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in the human condition’. Plus, of course, the arts can enrich and amuse. Much of this was evident in the Wellington College Arts Festival, which clearly articulates a bold statement about the importance of culture in today’s society.