This year’s four-day Benenden Arts Festival hit new heights in excitement, entertainment and invention, with a boundless assembly of events, activities, and performances.
The festival kicked off with a mesmeric performance by Six Two (Year 13) pianist Juno in our new Bonnie Yeung-Tsang Recital Hall. A perceptive discussion amongst the Wealden Literary Hub took place in the Library, while further performances were given by our accomplished Music Scholars. The Fourths (Year 7s) gave an energetic rendition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the Rose Garden, as the Benenden Memory Café entertained members of the local community living with Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders with dancing, chatting, tea and a huge selection of stunning cakes and treats.
A collaborative Dance show including students from both Benenden and The John Wallis Church of England Academy encompassed Ballet, Contemporary Dance and Street Dance, and featured choreography by the students themselves. The first day then concluded with a compelling and mature performance by the Drama Scholars, staging Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s haunting depiction of the British Suffragette movement, Her Naked Skin.
On the second day, things took a competitive turn, as students across the School competed in Inter-House It’s a Knockout-style contests that ran the gamut of madcap mini-games. Balls were thrown, wet sponges were squeezed, races were run blindfold, and tug-of-war battles were commenced by pupils draped from head to toe in proud House colours. An intense pyrotechnic demonstration by members of the Combined Cadet Force followed.
Later, the students gathered in the evening in the Centenary Hall for an electric performance by the sublime band Soul Beat. Despite the exquisite acoustics of the new building, the band struggled to make their raucous renditions of popular classics and contemporary hits heard over the Benenden pupils in full voice.
The third day gave Seniors, parents and Patrons of the new Centenary buildings the chance to explore the new, highly impressive spaces that many had had a hand in creating. Tours were organised with help from the Sixth Form Grey Jumpers, formal lunches were provided in the Bonnie Yeung-Tsang Recital Hall, and visitors were given priority for performances by our Music Scholars and by Benenden Senior, up-and-coming songwriter Charlotte Boyle.
Portrait and landscape masterclasses were meanwhile delivered by Seniors and staff, and in the afternoon, Benenden’s own Edinburgh Fringe Company, The Wyrd Systers, gave a brand-new piece by award-winning playwright Owen Thomas an eerie and entertaining outing.
In the evening, the School once again amassed in the Centenary Hall for a captivating concert, this time by the Jess Gillam Ensemble, whose invigorating and accomplished instrumental recitals paid testament to the talent and technique that took them to the top of the classical charts.
On the final day of the festival, students were entertained with all the fun of the fair, including a fairground ride, bungee trampolining, zorbing, a high striker, ice cream and several stalls full of treats and goodies to buy.
A line-up of exceedingly cool classic cars leant a level of vintage class to Guldeford Green, while the dog show charmed attendees with an unrivalled cuteness factor. Renowned chef and consummate professional Marcus Wareing even overcame illness to judge the vast selection of pupil-produced confectionery in the Great Benenden Bake Off—albeit virtually!
Overall, the four-day Arts Festival showcased the very best of the Benenden community, from the creativity of the performers and artisans involved to the sheer effort and determination of everyone who worked to organise and deliver, and to the unparalleled generosity and kindness of all those who continue to facilitate the ongoing growth and development of the School. The packed programme will be a tough one to beat, but we look forward to facing the challenge for the next festival!