Kate Ashdown, Class of 1986
1. When you were at Brighton & Hove High School, and what is your fondest memory of school?
Many of my fondest memories involve House events – House plays and House entertainment (gargling to the Blue Danube and being disqualified on many legitimate grounds, I suspect). This is a great place for friendship and laughter too – and many, many silly, in-house jokes.
2. Who was your favourite teacher and why?
I had a very scary Physics teacher who would threaten us all with the “girl-beater” and label us “bears of very little brain” – a Winnie the Pooh reference and so entirely forgivable. We soon learnt that she had a wicked sense of humour, alongside her formidable discipline policy, and cared about our wellbeing and progress ferociously. She was a treasure! Other than this, ALL my English teachers – for obvious, excellent reasons. I should also pay tribute to my Maths teachers who deserve medals – not just for getting me a decent Maths O Level but for making me love Maths in year 11; I grew to love Maths for the feeling of achievement a complete equation brought. They gave a bottom set Maths girl a “can do” attitude – thank you!
3. What were the benefits of being in an all-girls school?
Freedom to grow up at our own pace and to test ideas and likes/dislikes with much less judgement. We didn’t live boy-free lives, obviously, and so didn’t miss them at school. Jokes could be much more risqué too….
4. What did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
A vet. But I think this was the influence of a popular TV series at the time: ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. Year 8 science results suggested a rethink was necessary. I still want to win the Booker Prize and an Oscar when I grow up – these are all on-hold for the right moment.
5. What do you do now, and what are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
I am Deputy Head at Brighton Girls – it’s good to write that down and to pinch myself to prove it’s true! This school is a very special place and I really want to grow its success. The most rewarding parts of my job involve students and colleagues – both great groups of people. I love problem-solving so I think I might be in the right job! The biggest challenge is fitting all I need to do and all I want to do into the day.
6. What are you most proud of so far?
Nothing makes me prouder than students seeing effort rewarded with success: “Sheer plod makes plough-down silion shine”. However, I have particularly enjoyed writing/adapting and directing school plays: ‘Much Ado, the Musical’; ‘Seeking Cinders, the Alternative Cinderella’; ‘Sweeney Todd’; ‘Made in Dagenham’ to name a few!
7. What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at Brighton?
Seize every opportunity.
8. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Seize every opportunity – I didn’t always act on advice – not even the best advice!
9. What book, film or piece of music would you recommend to your younger self and to your fellow alumnae?
‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons AND ‘Barchester Towers’ (book and brilliant TV adaptation starring the wonderful Alan Rickman as the incomparable Obadiah Slope). I see the connections here are wit and satire. And thinking comedy, my favourite comfort read is the spoof detective series by Elizabeth Peters starring the feisty feminist Egyptologist Amelia Peabody – hysterical. But, without doubt, the funniest book I have ever read is Lord Byron’s ‘Don Juan’ – acrobatically poetic, nonchalantly erudite and irresistibly irreverent. I do think the world would be a better place if we all read more poetry.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
Not for my performances in staff plays or singing – which are probably memorable for the WRONG reasons. I would like to be remembered fondly, as someone who cared and the person who masterminded turning our school into Hogwarts for the day – while cunningly disguised as Professor Dumbledore.