4th November 2021 — Bolton School Boys’ Division has, throughout October, been engaged with Black History Month.
Y12 boys, in a session with Dr Liam Maloney from the University of York, learnt about segregation and racial disparities in Chicago, including the practice of ‘redlining’ where neighbourhoods, typically black and poor, received inferior levels of banking, insurance and government support, such as in schooling. They went on to explore the development of House music, tracing its socio-cultural and economic origins via slavery, the Great Migration, redlining and the Civil Rights Movement.
As the month unfolded, the School celebrated black cultures, drawing marginalised narratives into the frame and reflecting on important social questions. A ‘banned book trail’ which pupils engaged in was a supra-curricular opportunity aimed at engaging boys in a range of challenging literacy activities – including review writing, poetry composition and writing Galileo's trial defence. It encouraged the forms of critical thinking required to form balanced, fair and considered viewpoints. Departments across the school set tasks related to intellectual freedoms and diverse cultures. Matters of race were included alongside exploration of the forms of persecution and censorship in Nazi Germany; General Franco's impact in Hispanic countries and specifically the persecution of Federico Garcia Lorca to protect a hetero-normalised literary canon; the censorship of Ovid and Sappho in the classical world and many other focuses. Students enjoyed working in response to extracts from Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, reflecting on why To Kill a Mockingbird was so widely banned and learning about Partition in Broad Strokes, alongside Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule, by Mohandas K “Mahatma” Gandhi.
Pupils in Y10-13 are currently rehearsing for the School's reworked version of A Clockwork Orange. Clockwork, in part, explores contemporary social issues that have been prevalent in the news - the Black Lives Matter campaign, climate change concerns and women's safety - and what it is like to be a teenager in the world today.
Autograph ABP's The Missing Chapter exhibition has been on display in the Boys’ Division for over a year now and recently enquiry questions were added to the exhibit to encourage engagement. A temporary exhibition of Mauritian photographer Audrey Albert has also been displayed. Questions of identity and representation were raised within this exhibition too. Audrey is a Manchester International Festival creative fellow and is due to shortly lead photography workshops in School. Later in the year, Y13 will consider The Missing Chapter photographs and matters of race and representation in popular culture via SPACE enrichment sessions. There will also be a screening of Freedom Fields.
In a Celebration Assembly, Finley Littlefair and Anuj Mishra were shortlisted as finalists for the Royal Society of Arts' Pupil Design Awards in the summer. Their project, 'Engaging with Leverhulme's Legacy' was a response to the RSA's 'Roots to Empowerment' brief, 'How might we challenge systemic racism by redefining heritage to ensure that future generations engage with a more inclusive story of our past?' The boys, supported by a team of other Year 12 pupils, launched a live project that will progress, supported by National Heritage trustee Stephen Welsh and one of the RSA’s judges and NSEAD’s Vice President, Marlene Wylie. NSEAD is the National Society for Education in Art and Design and Marlene is a specialist in anti-racist education.
The students’ plans connect School, the Bolton community and other cultural organisations endowed by Lord Leverhulme, to the White Cube gallery in Lusanga, formerly Leverville. The judges praised the boys' understanding and communication around cultural wealth and their approach in addressing this. They were impressed with their response to the RSA question, highlighting themes around co-creation and collective action, which they felt linked strongly to deliberative democracy.
English Teacher Ms Naomi Lord said: ‘Overall the judges were blown away by the potential of the project; out of all submissions they felt the work could have the biggest impact and this really made it stand out. We congratulate Finley and Anuj on this excellent achievement, along with the boys that supported the development of the project: James Roberts, Ibrahim Ali, Jack Swires, Rafael Goloba and Ali Ahmed.’
The Girls’ Division has also been engaging with Black History Month. Y13 students spent PSHEE time considering a speech by BBC presenter, Clara Amfo. During assemblies, younger pupils enjoyed watching a compilation of clips from Horrible Histories, whilst older students watched a film about the life and works of James Baldwin.