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Wednesday 3rd July - 4.30pm
I admit it, part of me longs for the quiet of the garden, my secateurs and trug and an hour of deadheading: the peace, the tranquillity, the predictability.
How many of you, I wonder, have found yourselves in a confined space with twenty-six small girls pretending to be Cossacks, and irrepressibly jaunty Russian music thumping out minute after minute? It’s a curious experience – and, yet, fleeting longings for the garden aside, completely wonderful too. These bouncing would-be Cossacks are just one part of our Circus.
Twenty-four hours to go. The wholly distinctive aroma of sun on waxed canvas hangs heavy around us. Katy in Remove has baked unicorn-shaped biscuits for all the Circus staff. This is the sort of small gesture that means the Circus will always beat deadheading the roses.
I feel that the flowers in the Moreton garden are blooming, but that judgement is really for you to make. Please come and see for yourselves – in a large green big top in front of the tennis courts.
Tuesday 2nd July - 4pm
On my way into the Big Top I stumbled over our future head girl Megan lying in the grass reading Shakespeare - 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', of course. And this is the stuff we dream of.
Around us men on scaffolding put on the sides of the Big Top and suddenly its vast size doesn't seem quite so daunting. In an instant, it made sense as we took up our starting positions. Off stage, a band of devoted stage cleaners and prop makers have been busy. Hermione has spent hours hand sewing paper flowers.
We're fuelled by coffee and a bumper box of Maltesers. Oh and we're beginning to believe in the magic!
Monday 1st July - 3.30pm
Today we have reached a nadir. The wind is howling so much we are worried the Big Top is going to lift off. The ground is so damp the stilts are sinking and the unicyclist’s wheels are getting stuck in the mud.
Still, if it wasn’t for the news that there is a stomach bug doing the rounds and the girls are going down like flies, I would still be feeling confident. Barnum never had to deal with this, but in true Moreton style we all know that the only way is up and the show must go on. A group of charming Remove assured me they were having fun and they are finding it far easier being a Cossack in this weather. That’s the spirit.
(Editor's note: the weather looks fab for Thursday and Friday!)
Friday 28th June - 11.30am
And the sun shone!
And on tussocks of emerald grass girls sewed. Beside them, drying, were painted flags in red and blue – essential props for one of our big numbers. Shiny-faced – a mixture of joy and Factor 50 – a troupe of Cossack dancers (Remove) gamely battled the heat in Moreton kilts and Russian hats. And for the first time, our ‘Turkish’ belly dancers learned to wiggle as they walked.
For new headmaster George Budd the girls presented a mini Circus, a medley of songs and short scenes and, after only three days, the results were pretty good.
Every circus is a team effort and ours is no exception. Catering manager Stephen Conroy achieved near beatification on his arrival in the Walled Garden with trays of ice lollies and, as the heat began to ebb after teatime, a heroic and utterly brilliant staff choir celebrated a successful rehearsal with something even more refreshing.
I wonder if anyone reads this blog? If there’s anyone out there with thirty woolly sheep hats, I’d love to hear from you. So far, no sign of knitting in those clusters of busy girls.
Thursday 27th June - 5pm
What am I? I lie awake in the middle of the night with songs whirling around in my head. My average calorie consumption is 3000 a day, steps taken 25,000. I haven’t eaten anything green for days and scurvy lingers just around the corner – but I am having a ball. In short, I am a member of the circus staff!
As the Big Top goes up, so the temperature rises. It seemed appropriate that today a prospective parent told me that he was looking for a school that would encourage his daughter to take risks, to join in extra-curricular activities and to be unselfconsciously confident. Almost on cue a group of girls trotted up to him on stilts, some wearing pig masks, others dressed as goats. As Freddie Mercury once sang “Don’t Stop Me Now… Cos I’m Having A Good Time…”
Wednesday 26th June - 4pm
The Big Top has arrived and with it an extra layer of excitement. Suddenly it all seems imminent and what a lot we have to do. However, the school is buzzing. Hundreds of girls turned up to make headdresses today. A group of sixth formers turned their hands to making walking trees while some younger girls produced spectacular signage.
Maths supremo Lorna Campbell has put her goats onto a special training diet and is confident that they will be at the top of their game next week. Hannah Peel has started the intensive chicken training while juggler Tom Quantrell has taken to wearing his circus costume at all times. It's really happening now!
Someone has just uttered those immortal words "we've 8 days and 4 hours to go, team!".
Tuesday 25th June - 3.30pm
It seems fitting that on yet another rain-sodden day we turn our thoughts - and hands - to making things. Imagine my delight when a group of Moreton Art students presented the first printing of a wonderful, circus-inspired wallpaper, a riot of colour and circus images. You’ll be seeing a lot of this: We’re going to use it from now on in our programmes and publicity material, and I’m sure you’ll share my admiration for the visual talents of all the girls responsible for devising this complex but exhilarating design.
Outside the Art Department, Helen Powers was joined in the Latin room by Jane Davies as the work begins to make hundreds of skirts from fabric remnants donated by staff and parents or found around the school. The circus project has never been about money; it is not about technology or whizzy slickness, but about working together as a team, sharing talents and sharing initiative, as we turn something homespun into something magical. Remember that a dream dreamed by one person remains a dream - a dream dreamed by many becomes reality!
Monday 24th June - 3pm
As rehearsals begin, I wonder if the girls, and our Moreton First boys, fully appreciate what they will gain from their circus time: that alongside a celebratory sense of community, they will learn resilience, focus, stamina and the critical importance of attention to detail.
Girls, we are told, are reluctant risk-takers, a trait that can constrain both career and life choices. Today they step, hop, dance or tumble outside their comfort zones – an exciting beginning.
I for one look forward to all of our pupils - each in their different way - embracing the exhilarating and magical world of circus and, in recognising their own specialness along the way, rejecting forever the ordinary and second rate.
Friday 21st June - 1pm
Midsummer’s Day: our thoughts naturally turn to the enchanted world of circus. As the first shafts of sunlight in this rain-sodden summer brighten my desk I feel this is the day to start my Circus blog.
Whether this year’s Circus succeeds or fails, I want to share with you magical moments along the way. And they’ve already begun!
The majority of A Level students countrywide are now at home, fuddled with tiredness and relief. Not so at Moreton, where a band of resourceful and inspired post A Levellers are busy transforming my circus dreams into reality. Hermione, Buffy and Romy have already made and tested a human cannon. Remove English students gazed out of the classroom window in wonder at a gaggle of these senior girls sporting home-made paniered skirts and top hats, accessorised with roses from the garden.
Did they realise that this was the beginning of Moreton’s drift towards that dream-like world of the Circus? I think so.
Join me every day to join in this inspiring adventure.