I truly enjoy catching up with all the news of
my old school from the regular postings on The Mill.
The Alumni may have seen a recent article published on the BBC website about the artistic legacy of John Ruskin. The article's author, Daisy Dunn, asks whether Ruskin was the most important man of the last 200 years. "In the bicentenary of his birth, itís time we looked again at the forward-thinking and influential ideas of the great Victorian," she writes.
"If we think of John Ruskin at all today," Dunn continues, "it tends to be as the buttoned-up Victorian who was so repulsed by his wife Effie Grayís pubic hair that he could not consummate their marriage. The anecdote, which was actually invented in the 20th Century, has overshadowed the fact that Ruskin was one of the most influential figures in modern history, inspiring everyone from Charlotte BrontŽ to Mahatma Gandhi and the founders of the UKís National Trust."
In my first year at JRGS I was selected by the celebrated British composer Benjamin Britten to be a soloist in his opera Noyes Fludde, which had its premiere at The Aldeburgh Festival in 1957. As an 11 year old, it was quite an adventure performing as Ham, one of Noyerís sons, with Michael Crawford as Jaffet, another son. Incidentally, due to all the time I spent away from Ruskin, with headmaster Mr. Loweís permission that first year, rehearsing in London and then spending over a month at Aldeburgh. I was then put in the lowest grade class, 2F, because of missing so much schooling. It then took me a couple of years of academic success to be finally allowed to join Mr. Fieldís class, the gaining enough O and A levels to be admitted to the Birmingham College of Art and Design.
BTW: Iíve been living in Willits, Mendocino County, California, since 1995. I really love it here in the Redwoods ... clean air, star-filled nights, and wonderful organic food that we grow in our community gardens. After working in 20 countries since 1980 as an organization development consultant and executive trainer, Iím enjoying life as a visiting professor at a couple of universities, making art, teaching meditation and supporting my community any way I can.
I last visited the UK in 2012 for a reunion at The Royal School of Church Music at Addington Palace, where I was head chorister during my time at Ruskin; in a way it was a parallel educational existence.
Brian Weller, Willits, CA, USA, February 2019 Email