It’s the Children’s Parade tomorrow, an event that marks the start of the Brighton Festival, and Brighton Girls will be leading the way – not only will we be out in force, with our samba band and our burst of pink t-shirts but, as sponsors of this year’s event, our school banner will be held aloft, a symbol of our commitment to the community.
When I arrived in Brighton & Hove, a few months before the pandemic, I came with a vision for a school that was completely in tune with its locality. As a civic-minded school, proud of our position in the heart of the city, supporting events that build bridges with the wider community is an important part of what we do.
It is the reason why, during the Easter Marathon Weekend, our sports teachers ran the warm-ups for 18 Mini Mile races and why, the following day, staff students and parents worked together on the water station at 13.5 miles, doling out cupfuls of water and bucketfuls of encouragement to runners. It is why we are sourcing changing robes for our Sea Squad from Shibui Surf and Skate, a Brighton-based business that can be found under the arches, rather than going for the ubiquitous DryRobe. It also explains why groups of students have been working with Bird and Blend on new tea blends to serve to visitors to the school – ‘Chai to be Kind’ and ‘Bold and Gold’ will be appearing in your mugs very soon. And, finally, it is why last Friday, there was a Brighton Girls presence at the Brighton Summit, an event organised by the Brighton Chamber to bring together business leaders and entrepreneurs from across the city for a day of exchanging ideas, workshops, seminars and keynotes.
There is a structure emerging on the seafront in Hove that will remain there for the duration of the Brighton Festival – it’s a colonnade – or Riwaq in Arabic – a “semi-open structure transitioning between open and enclosed spaces”. The Riwaq has been designed by Syrian architect, author and guest co-director of this year’s festival, Marwa Al-Sabouni, and has been designed to encourage the community to come together to interact and exchange ideas as we rebuild after a period of separation. In Marwa’s words, “The theme of Rebuilding is our response to the many forms of erosion that took place all over the world in the past few years. Not only the physical destruction of homes and communities, but also the loss of what brings us together and what makes us hope”.
Marwa’s work draws upon her experience of living in a country at war, and also explores the ways in which architecture mirrors the community that lives within it. As our Designing the Future project enters its final phase, with outdoor seating areas and a central communal meeting space, and we welcome our first Ukrainian student to be with us for the Summer Term, the theme for this year’s Brighton Festival, ‘Rebuild and Hope’, feels ever more fitting.