Centenary Closes with Spectacular Celebrations

01.07.2024
Centenary Closes with Spectacular Celebrations

Benenden School held its largest ever outdoors event on Saturday as it completed its Centenary celebrations in style with the Benenden Centenary Pageant.

Held in high regard by generations of Benenden Seniors and last held in 1969, the Benenden Pageant was a traditional retelling of the history of the Hemsted Park site upon which the School stands and took place every 5 years from 1934 to 1969. It consisted of a large cast of students in period costume enacting the site’s history through drama and dance, including the visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. 

To mark the Centenary, we commissioned a new version of the Pageant, The First 24, which told the history of Benenden School through drama, dance, music and a multi-media approach depicting the key moments that shaped the School and its more notable students and staff. The first school set up by the Founders in Bickley had a core group of 24 students who went on to be the bedrock of those students who first entered Benenden in 1924.

Welsh Bafta-winning playwright Owen Thomas co-wrote the updated script with Six One student Serena. Mr Thomas explained: “The aim of this Pageant has been to try to distil the history of Benenden School into 60 or so minutes. I have tried to reflect the tone of Ballad of Benenden whilst offering a modern take.

It was a pleasure to work with Serena, a current Benenden student, in the research and writing of the Pageant. Her long hours in the School archive, creative ideas and passion for the story of The First 24 was invaluable.”

Saturday’s celebration of the School’s history also incorporated Seniors’ Day and allowed the School community the opportunity to learn, remember and reflect on how the School has shaped so many lives during the last 100 years. In closing the chapter on the School’s first century, Headmistress Samantha Price heralded “turning the page” in Benenden’s history. Following the Pageant, Mrs Price buried a time capsule in the grounds which contained a number of items that it is hoped will be unearthed by future Benenden students in 2124, including a letter written by Mrs Price herself to her great grand daughter!

Benenden’s Centenary has been marked by a number of events at the School, as well as in London, Canterbury, and overseas with a series of gatherings in Hong Kong. The Centenary year started with the launch of the Centenary Curriculum and the School’s first global conference at which Sixth Formers from dozens of schools gathered to hear from delegates on the theme of Inspiring Future Female Leaders. Other highlights of these remarkable celebrations have included a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Coliseum and a Centenary Service at Canterbury Cathedral.