On a springy, sunny morning I headed up to the King Alfred School in Hampstead for a talk with some of their Sixth Formers. After quite a few school dates now, I’m less daunted than I was at the start of the ‘tour’, when I needed firm instruction from a performer friend on how to address an audience and not my shoes. But even so, I still gulped at the news that I would be speaking in the school’s recently revamped 100-seater theatre.
The Phoenix Theatre turned out to be a gorgeous venue, nestled in the grounds of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova’s house. To my deep joy, it had state-of-the-art screen and sound - and Akin, the incredibly helpful IT guy, which cut out the usual last minute fumbly panic when my projector doesn't fit with the school wiring.
About sixty students from Year 12 and Year 13 pitched up to the theatre, and many even sat near the front, thus eliminating that lonely, shouting-into-the-abyss experience, where students are positioned so far away they might as well be in Poland. After I’d done a short reading from ‘Oskar’ and shown the David Eagleman ‘Perception’ clips, they really got stuck in to the discussions, which covered compassion, how we all see the world differently, and limiting self beliefs.
Their questions and responses were so generous, well thought out and curious that I could have stayed there all afternoon (with a reviving little nap in the playground’s wooden shack). These are just the sort of students that make my heart lift and remind me how lucky I am to be able to share the ideas, which I’m so passionate about.
The very lovely follow-up email from the Assistant Head of Sixth Form, Sheila Hanlon made the day complete.
"Your talk was exactly what we always dream our lectures will be. Students loved the mix of reading from Oskar Dunkelblick, videos, discussions and the whole tone of the talk. They have been saying how much they enjoyed it and several have said that they identified with Oskar, seeing themselves in him.”
Afterwards I scurried off to the Skip Garden in KIng’s Cross for lunch. Gazing out of the cafe window, I noticed how similar the layout of the Skip Garden is to King Alfred’s, both brimming with beautiful buildings (and plants), designed to nurture creativity and playfulness, and nourish a strong sense of community.
That day’s lunch in the cafe - beetroot soup and goat’s cheese frittata - was pretty nourishing too.