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Chairman's Blog

george buntingRead news here from and about OWs that comes to me directly or on the grapevine. I will also draw attention to and comment on matters of interest. If you were at Wells, do send me snippets or tweets about what you or other OWs are doing to make this blog live, up to date and interesting!

You can add your responses and comments to my blog posts on our Facebook Group.

(Please note that throughout this site, OW years refer to the year the group left Year13 (Upper Sixth). Individuals may have left earlier)

George Bunting, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Freya Evans - not without drama

Freya Evans

Our five-years-on celebration season continues this week with Freya Evans (OW 2012). Freya was a memorable musician at Wells but from an early age revealed a ‘dramatic personality’ and it was the stage rather than the concert hall that called her when she left Wells. Telling the school she was taking a gap year she went to London to become an actress.

She trained with the Fourth Monkey Theatre Company on their one year programme with workshops in clowning, Shakespeare, voice, movement, circus skills and stage combat with influential practitioners from all over the UK. She recalls “a turbulent few years that included bed bugs, homelessness, cockroaches and a landlord that watched me sleep.”

But Freya is now establishing her reputation and got good reviews for playing a fairy godmother Jane Austen “with bubbly charisma” in a pantomime based on Pride and Prejudice at the Cockpit Theatre, London.

“Now” she says, “hopefully the dark times are over. I am currently performing Olivia in Twelfth Night and Bushy in Richard II with Clatterhouse Theatre Company at the Drayton Arms Theatre in London"

Olivia says:

Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe;
What is decreed must be, and be this so.

... but it seems to us that Freya is taking charge of her destiny and we wish her the very best of it.

Tobi Seymour – back from the Bagels

Tobi Seymour

Lovely to hear news of many OWs at our London dinner; first mention goes to Tobi Seymour (OW 2012) who is developing his career as an artist. Tobi says;

“After Wells I did an Art Foundation in Leeds and then a BA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art. Finishing that I packed my bags and headed off to America to seek fame and fortune. After a lot of musing, an exhibition No More Bagels in Los Angeles and an election, I find myself back home continuing to make work and hoping to do so for as long as possible”

Last year he also had an exhibition Colourspace in Bristol and became involved in Slippers, which aims to help aspiring artists exhibit their work including by means of an app. Cars have also featured in Tobi’s life. He is remembered at Wells for his huge Land Rover and he later staged performance art Carmonica Harmonicar in C Major which involved fixing six harmonicas to his red MX5 and creating music as he drove through Cheddar Gorge. Sadly the MX5 has since had to go but we wish Tobi all the best for his future art – and motoring.

Lydia Gosnell – Beware the Spider!

Lydia Gosnell

How nice this week to hear from Lydia Gosnell (OW 2009) with exciting news of her music, including Palisander, her recorder quartet with upcoming concerts at St John’s, Smith Square and a CD launch Beware the Spider! on 16th February 2017.

At Wells, Lydia joined the school's first trip to Guangzhou, China, where she learnt Chinese bamboo flute and gourd pipe. She recently gave a performance and talk about these at the Horniman Museum for the charity Live Music Now. Nine years later she is still in touch with her Chinese flute teacher and will see him perform in London in the summer.

After Wells, Lydia went to the Guildhall and gained a distinction in her Master's degree as a recorder player and historical flautist. In 2012 she performed in the London Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies, primarily as a drummer! Since graduating, Palisander has been her main focus, as well as teaching, which she loves.

She says “I'm still in touch with my Wells friends and we'll be meeting for tea and cake in a couple of weeks.”

Simon Baggs on Australia Day

Simon Baggs Copy

In honour of Australia Day yesterday, a mention of our most active antipodean, Simon Baggs (OW 1973). Simon is CEO and owner of Lateral Events, an energetic Sydney company that creates public, corporate and signature events across the continent. Lateral was set up in 1996 and has had a number of memorable coups; e.g. this year they have persuaded Sir David Attenborough to do another tour of Australia and a first of New Zealand.

Simon was an international traveller from an early age and has had Australian connections since his twenties. I see he has always manged to be at the heart of things. We shall be celebrating this year the dedication of the concert hall at Wells in honour of Alan Quilter and find in the 1965 school photograph that a third person is front and centre…

AKQ 1965

A mention also for his brother Stephen Baggs (OW 1970), a good friend of mine at Wells (and also for previous members of the family who were at the school earlier in the C20th).

Simon has organised many events for OWs in Sydney and we send him and all our Australian OWs our very best wishes for more happy reunions.

Richard Stowers in Washington, DC

Richard StowersUS flagAs the whole world looks towards the US capital today I naturally get in touch with Richard Stowers (OW 2008), a Wellensian living within walking distance of the landmark event. Richard, a US citizen, came to Wells to round off an international education at one of the oldest schools in the UK before going on to the second oldest university in America, The College of William and Mary for a BA in Pre-Medical Studies and French. He followed this with a Master of Public Health at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is now a Performance Associate at Privia Health which works to achieve value for money in health care.

The Wellensian records a sixth form theatre trip to London which Richard fondly remembers. The group set out to show him the sites but discovered he knew them better than they did! So it was decided to settle for a box of Krispy Kremes (after all, it was Thanksgiving Day) and a visit to Harrods. He is also remembered as a very useful 1st XI soccer player.

Richard had his own big event last year when he inaugurated his marriage to Alix whom he met at W&M where she was studying art history. About today he says “A few months ago my wife and I thought it would be very exciting to walk to the inauguration but instead are headed north for the weekend as the "Make America Great Again" hats roll in...”

We send them both our very best wishes and hope that we shall keep in touch.

Au revoir to Annie Green

Annie Green

Today we say a fond au revoir to Annie Green (née Jones OW 2009) as she leaves her post as Head of Development at Wells for a promotion to Development Manager at OpenUp Music, a Bristol-based charity that empowers young disabled musicians to build inclusive youth orchestras.

Annie leaves behind an impressive track record at Wells. She returned to the school in 2010 to work in the Concerts Department and then moved to the Foundation as Campaign Fundraiser one year later, before being promoted to Development Associate and then Head of the department in September 2015. She has led work on Cedars Hall fundraising and most recently devised and launched the innovative Give a Gifted Child a Chance campaign for bursaries. She spoke movingly at the launch event about how an anonymous donor came to her rescue at Wells to fund a bursary place for her for sixth form.

Annie is also a notable musician. She was a chorister and recalls growing up singing round the piano at home with her dad Andy Jones (OW 1972). She was a member of Wells' chapel and chamber choirs and gained a distinction in the ABRSM Singing Diploma. She was a member of The Wellensian Consort which was crowned Choir of the Year in 2010. Annie is also a noted big band soloist and singer/songwriter and in the same year released her debut album Fabulous Reject.

The Wellensian records that Annie once “stood in at the last minute to save the day” for Haversham House in the Bigney Cup, and her willingness to jump in has been a key to her success. We wish her well for the future.

James Voysey recalls Wells dramas

James Voysey Xmas 2017 drinks

At a recent Wellensian social I was pleased to meet James Voysey (OW 2014) because my time at Wells overlapped with his father Andy Voysey (OW 1975). After a gap year, James started at Plymouth University where he is studying geology.

As a David Rowley protégé he has prospects of joining the ranks of some of the highest paid OWs. Last summer he worked as a qualified NPLQ lifeguard at a sports centre near home, but this year he is seeking an interesting earth sciences summer vacation job to widen his horizons.

He had early success in his subject and at Wells was part of team that retained the National Schools Geology Challenge for a second year. He was also a first team cricket and rugby player. He raised money (including taking part in a tough mudder) during a year for the Wells-supported Balanta Music Academy in Seirra Leone and then went out with the Wells group and taught drama to children who had never seen anything quite like this before.

We look forward to hearing more of his progress!

Ralf Ayling-Miller

Ralf Ayling-Miller

News of Ralf Ayling-Miller (OW 2012) who has completed his studies at Birmingham Conservatoire and is now a freelance musician. One of his first appointments has been as organist at St Mark’s Parish Church, Bromley where my brother James Bunting (OW 1972) sings in the choir.

He will be playing at St Paul’s and Peterborough Cathedrals when the Bromley choir sing there in 2017 and at a cathedral (yet to be announced) in 2018 when they take a four day residency which they do in alternate years. Ralf has also been accompanying adult and school choirs in the Bromley area.

At Wells, Ralf studied organ under the cathedral organist, Matthew Owens, was Open Organ Scholar at St John’s Glastonbury and also played organ at Wells, Salisbury, Hereford and Exeter Cathedrals when accompanying the choir on tour. At the Conservatoire he studied under Henry Fairs and was Senior Organ Scholar at St Peter’s Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton.

Ralf will be accepting new engagements in 2017 and we wish him well.

Light in a dark world

Wells Cathedral candlelit

Thousands of candles light the Cathedral for the traditional carol services.

We wish a Very Happy Christmas and a peaceful 2017 to all members of our Wellensian family in or from nearly a quarter of all the countries in the world. We do hope to see you at a reunion next year!

PHOTO: Jason Bryant/ SWNS.com

Please vote for Ghislaine Reece-Trapp!

Ghislaine Reece-Trapp

Christmas is coming and the BBC R3 Carol competition is upon us. You have an opportunity to vote (by 5pm on 21st Dec) for the beautiful carol from Ghislaine Reece-Trapp (OW 2010) who is one of six finalists. If she wins her carol will be played throughout the Christmas weekend.

A choral singer from an early age, Ghislaine began playing organ when she was 12. She was a specialist musician at Wells and she then went to Guildford cathedral for a year. Three years as Organ Scholar at Christ Church, Oxford followed and international performance including in Beijing. She was then Director of Music at All Saints, Oxford and gained her FRCO this year. She is now an academic music teacher at Eltham College in London where she lives . She has been nominated to the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company Of Musicians. Wells laid the foundations for the diverse musical career that Ghislaine has forged for herself.

At Wells Ghislaine was Captain of Edwards House and has happy memories of an “exciting, outrageous and hilarious year. Mamma Mia sing-along nights and High School Musical celebrations” were “an excuse for many melodramatic dances around the Common Room (Shrewsbury boys included!), whilst ensuring vocal perfection for the performance of our House Hymn.” We hope her latest composition will be a great success.

A social with Elliot Launn

2016-12-08 19.18.45

A fun evening last might at our well attended London Social including a drink and a chat with Elliot Launn (OW 2010). Elliot is an accomplished pianist, an accompaniment fellow at the RCM and a freelance musician.

After specialist music at Wells, Elliot graduated on Tuba and Piano from the Royal College of Music in 2014. He has recently performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Sinfonia

However his biggest event this year has been his marriage to Ailsa in August, when many OWs assembled to celebrate this happy occasion.

Elliot’s musical skills extend beyond classical piano. He has been known to play bass guitar and is one of the stars of Baubles & Warbles “which brings you a concert of christmas music, opera, musical theatre, audience participation and LAUGHTER!”

Harriet Wiltshire returns to Wells

Harriet Wiltshire 2

Another welcome this week, this time to cellist Harriet Wiltshire (OW 1997) who has returned to Wells to teach cello. Harriet studied with Ioan Davies at Wells and then with Raphael Wallfisch and Susan Shephard at the Guildhall where she received a distinction.

Harriet has happy memories of Haversham, for example when her house won the Bigny Cup in a “fantastic and funny production of HMS Pinafore”. House sport was less successful, the hockey team losing not only all their games one year but also two front teeth.

She was principal cellist with Southbank Sinfonia and plays with the London Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She has performed on several live broadcasts. Including Radio 3’s In Tune.

Harriet also teaches cello at Faulkner House School in London and coaches sections of the National Children’s Chamber Orchestra and South West Youth orchestra. Her son is also a future OW, being currently a chorister in the cathedral choir.

Bienvenue à Blandine Jacquet

Blandine Jacquet

Je suis heureux de voir que Blandine Jacquet (OW 2016) a rejoint notre groupe sur Facebook. Blandine a étudié l'orgue à Wells et a été responsable de l'accompagnement musical lors de la traditionnelle sortie des élèves de Terminale de Wells Cathedral School par les grandes portes occidentales de la cathédrale le dernier jour de l'année avec Always look on the bright side of life.

Avant d'arriver à Wells Blandine, forte de ses influences et de son héritage américains, français et japonais, était choriste à la Cathédrale Américaine de Paris. Cette expérience lui a donné sa perspicacité dans la tradition Anglicanne qui a été salutaire dans sa pratique musicale. Elle étudie maintenant au Conservatoire de Toulouse. Elle a été nommée élève d'organe à Queens' College, Cambridge et elle accéda à l'université étudier les sciences naturelles l'année prochaine.

Quand à Wells elle acomplit le mélange classique de la musique et de la science et a étudié la physique et la chimie. Ses amis de Plumptre pour son Skyping tard dans la nuit autour du monde se rappelle également tendrement la.

Nous espérons qu'elle restera en contact toujours avec nous aussi!

James Howarth – Inspirational Head Teacher

James Howarth

We are honoured to mention James Howarth (OW 1992) as a WCS Foundation Fellowship award winner last weekend. James is Principal of the Hathaway Academy in Grays, Essex, reborn under his leadership from a former underperforming school.

James dedicated his career to teaching from the outset. After Wells he took a teaching post in Australia before an education degree at Exeter University. He has since sought out some of the toughest inner city challenges; first at Elephant & Castle, then a unit for excluded children in Tottenham followed by Canning Town (where he met his wife Anna) and Peckham.

At Wells James was a notable sportsman, with 1st XI and 1st XV honours recorded and sport has continued to be important in his teaching.

Last year James suffered a major health setback and he is very greatly admired for the determined way he stepped up to yet another challenge. We wish him the very best and can be proud that Wells, though a tranquil place to be nurtured, can inspire OWs to go out and change lives for children growing up in much harsher places.

Louise Hunt - Star musician back to Wells

Louise Hunt

On your behalf to the WCS Foundation Fellowship Awards tomorrow evening when three Wellensian achievers will be recognised; James Howarth (OW 1992), Louise Hunt (OW 1999) and David Wilson (OW 2003). (More of James next week). Louise is a pianist with a successful music career in theatre and television. She is currently performing The Wind in the Willows musical in Southampton prior to opening at the London Palladium next year.

Louise has been musical director and performer in many West End and touring shows since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music. Her TV credits include: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do, I'd Do Anything, Last Choir Standing, Your Country Needs You, Love Never Dies, Britain's Got Talent and X Factor.

Louise is a multi-talented musician with skills also in percussion, organ and violin. At Wells, aged 11 “she was let loose on the Cathedral organ for a TV recording -at full volume! Thunder rules!” In her final year she formed her own four-girl sing and dance band with Nicola Gleed (OW 1999), Sarah Squires (née Wilton OW 2000) and Bethany Lowe (OW 1999). She said then that her ambition was to be “a famous West End/Broadway Musical Director and a musician involved with singing, dancing, theatre, radio, television and bands”, in all of which she now has star accomplishments.

Graham Fudge hands on the biscuit

Graham Fudge

At the opening of Cedars Hall I met Graham Fudge (OW 1969) with his wife Sue who have this year, with brother Steve Fudge (OW 1972) handed on the family luxury biscuit company to fellow directors after 100 years of family ownership.

TJ Fudge baked bread from 1916 until the 1980s when they diversified into biscuits. The company went through some difficult times back then but now is internationally successful, producing about 6.5 million biscuits a week for Waitrose and other big names. In 2015 they won the Great Taste Award for their sour cream & onion wafers and perfect poppy & sesame biscuits.

Graham was a chorister at Wells and is remembered particularly for his drama performances. At age 16 he ran a fête cake stall in aid of the school development fund which featured ‘gorgeous strawberry cakes’ and ‘a big meringue’.

Graham has been a good supporter of the Association over the years and we hope we shall see more of him and Sue now he has relinquished some of his business responsibilities.

Jonathan Dodd – an electric career in music

Jonathan Dodd

A warm back-in-touch welcome to Jonathan Dodd (OW 1977).

Jonathan is a music professional whose musical pedigree stretches back to Spiritual Sky, a young teenage band he formed at Wells complete with a manager (Simon Baggs OW 1973). He has now spent 25 years in the business with his own state of the art studio in Battersea and song writing for artists such as Leona Lewis and Mandisa. His first instrument is guitar and he has a fine collection including Gibson, Taylor and Barnabe.

Jonathan’s expertise is in high end digital audio and his most recent new venture is Realpiano, a unique piano recording studio including a remote live performance facility using the Yamaha Disklavier system.

As well as his musical career he has long devoted time to the voluntary sector and has been a Director and Chairman of DRCA which provides education, employment and recreation opportunities in Battersea. He lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife Paloma; they married last year.

Jonathan recalls when at Wells that he didn’t think Alan Quilter quite approved of how he used his time. We hope that Jonathan will pay a visit soon to see that he would now be almost mainstream!

Sara Cubitt – web guru

Sara Cubitt

Delightful to hear this week from Sara Cubitt (née Underwood OW 1996). Sara manages her web consultancy Wildflower Digital which enables businesses to create exceptional online experiences for their customers. She founded her consultancy in 2014 after twelve years with the world’s largest online retailer Amazon.

At Wells Sara is particularly remembered for her singing and acting including performances of Sullivan’s The Zoo and HMS Pinafore, and Paul Denegi’s Crying in the Devil’s Shadow and Love You to Death. She says doing these shows was “loads of fun” (including mentions in Hello! magazine) and she is still in regular contact with other OWs involved.

After Wells and a gap year, Sara completed a degree in Performing Arts at Middlesex University. She now lives in Norfolk with husband Ali, son Max and daughter Ren Charlotte.

Shu-Wei Tseng - Director of Music

Shu-Wei Tseng

To the opening of Cedars Hall and among the glitterati is Dr. Shu-Wei Tseng (OW 1999) who won our ballot for a VIP invitation to this event. She was recently appointed Director of Music at Knightsbridge School, a co-ed day prep school in West London with 380 pupils.

Shu-Wei is remembered for her piano and cello performance at Wells, The Wellensian recording when she was 16 years old, “The star of the show was Shu-Wei Tseng who looked stunning and performed the notoriously difficult Bartok Piano Concerto No. 3 with great panache.”

After Wells she went to the Royal Academy and then to the University of Colorado. She then developed her teaching career in a number of roles including Head of Keyboard and Strings at Stowe School.

We hope to see Shu-Wei back in Wells again soon.

Jonathan Hippisley in Western Australia

Jonathan Hippisley

A warm welcome to Jonathan Hippisley (OW 1976) who has just joined our Facebook Group which now has nearly 1,640 members. Jonathan lives in Western Australia where he runs his company Softway Interactive Education.

After Wells he went to Trinity College, Cambridge to study economics and then began a career in the finance sector in London with Bank of New York and Mellon Bank. His next job, in international finance, involved wide contact with Australia and in the early 1990s he made a career change. This took him to the University of Western Australia and a PhD in Education Psychometrics where he enrolled part time and also worked as an IT consultant for various mining companies and utilities. From there he moved into education and has developed a measurement tool to assess the skills of children from any background anywhere in the world.

He has remained in Australia ever since though we are pleased to see he returns to the UK from time to time – as our photo reveals.

Kara Bridson creates success

Kara Bridson

Among decennial Wellies deserving a mention this year is Kara Bridson (OW 2006) who has recently joined brand entertainment agency Media Bounty as Head of Creative.

After Wells, Kara went to University of the Arts in London and completed a Graphic Design degree and then worked in a number of brand agencies including Ogilvy One before her recent move. Given her maternal influence it is not surprising that Kara has excelled in a design career as has her brother Jack Bridson (OW 2011) who also plays hockey for the OWs.

Kara now lives in London and charmingly says she is “still very much in love with Ned Berry (OW), we have been together for over ten years”. We hope there may be further happy news about this in due course and also that we shall hear more from Kara’s sister Alice Bridson (OW 2006) and brother Luke Bridson (OW 2011), also an OW hockey player.

Benson Headley – music and the word of God

Benson Headley

At our recent social we were delighted to see Rev. Dr. Benson Headley (OW 1974) who is a minister in the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and The Americas.

Benson grew up in Nassau, Bahamas where his musical talents were recognised and he was offered a place at Wells. At Wells he was a specialist viola player ‘mentioned in despatches’ at major performances. He was also a successful sportsman, playing (of course) cricket for the school as well as hockey. He was also Captain of Badminton and was selected to play for the Somerset county side.

After Wells, Benson studied music at The Guildhall and then at Universities of Cincinnati and of Michigan followed by theology at Princeton and in Jamaica. He was ordained in 1994 and since then he has ministering in South Africa, Bahamas, Jamaica, England (including as a hospital chaplain) and Guyana. During his service he has developed music as well as preaching in the church and has written on Christian healing with music.

We wish him well in those beautiful parts of the world that his calling takes him to.

George Abram killed on the Somme

George Percy Abram

We remember an OW killed 100 years ago yesterday.  From The Wells Journal of 1 December 1916:

Citizens, especially old Cathedral Grammar School Boys, will learn with regret of the death in action of Mr George Percy Abram [OW 1896], the only son of the late Mr. G.P. Abram, for many years the respected headmaster of the Grammar School [WCS]. Deceased came to Wells at three years old and remained in the city for 17 years. In 1908 he went to Canada, where he took up farming, returned home in the autumn of 1913. He went back to Canada in March of the following year, and as soon as war was declared enlisted in the 27th Batt. of the 2nd Canadian Contingent. After training all the winter at Winnipeg, he came to England, and for a few months was at Shorncliffe, proceeding to France on September 15th of last year. Continuous work in the trenches was carried out with much enthusiasm, and his friends say he was “a soldier to his finger tips,” and noted for his fearlessness. On the morning of September 15th, after exactly a year in France, he was killed by a bullet on leaving his trench in the attack on Courcelette. A friend writing to deceased’s mother, says, “If he could have picked the time for making his great sacrifice he would have chosen the hour he died. It was the hour of victory and the most glorious day in the history of our battalion.”

He is remembered on the Memorial at Vimy Ridge and on the Wells Roll of Honour.

Small poppy2We will remember them