BA (Hons) International Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London and University of Queensland, Australia
MPhil in Playwriting, University of Birmingham
MPGCE, University of Warwick
Co-founder of Rough Fiction theatre company
What makes a good teacher at Bedales?
Students sit at the very heart of learning at Bedales. We facilitate this learning by being critical judges and simultaneous supporters. We take thoughtful risks in the work we select for students, pushing beyond the all too regular diet in other institutions, and expect students to take thoughtful risks in the way they engage in the learning process. We want students to surprise themselves with what they are capable of and we value being part of that experience.
What are you trying to encourage and instil in your pupils?
I am fortunate to teach drama. We deliver the range of genre that we consciously do here we instil in our students a broad range of understanding. I have been fortunate to stage plays by Martin Crimp, Heiner Müller, John Vanbrugh, Robert Browning, Chris Thorpe, Tristan Tzara and stage performances we have created ourselves inspired by Robert Wilson, Forced Entertainment and the “Shockheaded Peter” Stories to mention but some key performances in recent years. There are university departments that would be proud of that range of work. In our own BAC (GCSE equivalent) course in Block 4 (Year 10 equivalent) we underpin all the above by examining naturalism, exploring our cultural past looking at Greek Chorus and finish with the most important playwright in history, Shakespeare. This wide-ranging study, from the traditional to the contemporary, allows students to find their areas of interest and push the boundaries of their theatrical world.
Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?
Along with the dedicated and hardworking staff here I help to shape the co-curricular world and our mission is as follows: Through doing and making, we nurture head, head and heart in providing opportunities to creatively learn in challenging non-classroom environments. Our long term vision is: To foster lifelong passions for culture and sport; creating independent, gritty individuals who will go on to reshape their worlds with confidence.
I also run the theatre as a public venue, attracting significant national and international work to create a programme we’re incredibly proud of. We nourish and inspire community with events that have head, hand and heart at their core.
In your opinion, what makes Bedales?
Here the unique can thrive, and that is powerful. We wear what we want to wear and as a teacher I am addressed by the name that adults refer to me by. These are subtle, yet important, shifts that allow students the confidence to be the creators of their own world, with, not in opposition to, their teachers. Students do not receive some archaic sense of “learning” that is finite and bounded. Bedales is proud to foster and encourage independence.
What is your best memory of Bedales?
I was married on site in the tactile and finely crafted Lupton Hall. I deeply love my subject and student learning of that subject here has formed memories that I will take with me throughout my career but being able to write my own vows and speak them in a building with so much vibrant history, to the person I love most, will take some beating.
Who or what inspires you?
Theatre has the possibility to show us a glimpse of the impossible as something reachable. Theatre can teach us how to live whilst being undogmatic and it can cause us to question without throwing us into confusion. Plays are the world in microcosm and the process of their creation a community in microcosm. This is amazing enough to reflect on and follow in any line of flight possible. This is why this drama is so important.
The co-curricular space is similarly powerful. What goes on outside the classroom defines who we are in deep and meaningful ways. In fact, one of the biggest predictors of success in later life is to follow two co-curricular activities through for two years and make improvement with that. This then allows students to go on to reshape their worlds with confidence. Be that the joys of Duke of Edinburgh or Music or Dance or Sport. Developing and nurturing these lifelong passions is our job. And that’s inspirational.
Tell us something not a lot of people know about you.
I have been to the sweltering lower levels of the Potosi silver mines to witness a way of life it is difficult to comprehend, risen slightly higher to be underneath Exmouth’s navy pier watching myriad, multi-coloured and rare sea life in a place that may not see rain from one year to the next, and over the New Year before my first child was born I added a little more altitude and enjoyed the rarefied air of Everest Base Camp.
- Read Phil's piece on the school blog, 'Mental Health and Arts Education – are we missing a trick?'
- Read Phil's article on his Everest Base Camp trek, published in The Independent: Everest Base Camp trek: Highs and lows of an adventure to take your breath away
- Read Phil's article on the value of drama in school, published in The Guardian: A winter's tale: don't overlook the value of drama in school