“We’re all mad here”. So says the Cheshire Cat to Alice – words which not only capture the fantasy world of Lewis Carrol’s classic tale, but words that provide a fitting description of Brighton Girls this week. I’m not simply referring to the Year 3 and 4 play, ‘Alice the Musical’, which was performed with great energy and chutzpa this week and signalled a very bright future performing arts in the school; nor am I referring specifically to the Alice-themed readathon conceived and orchestrated by our very own Queen of Hearts, aka Karen Smith, our Librarian (and someone who is more than capable of imagining at least six impossible things before breakfast). I’m referring also to the colourful cast of characters we’ve had buzzing about the place: yesterday, Jim Beckett, author of ‘The Caravan at the Edge of Doom’ came to entertain our Prep students, and Aflo the poet, and writer, Josephine Hall, spent time with Years 7 to 9 as part of the Poetry by Heart competition. Today, another author, Ravena Guron, came to speak to Senior students, a continuation of the World Book Day fun. These brilliant speakers have brought stories – their real-life stories in addition to the narratives they have crafted – and they have enriched our experience as visitors always do.

Over the last two weeks, two other initiatives have combined to bring more visitors to our door. Eco Fortnight and Guild Week both involved a packed schedule of events and speakers: we hosted representatives from the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Martlets Hospice; Gully the Seagull, the mascot of our Prep Guild charity, Albion in the Community, made an appearance; and special guest, Inka Cresswell, had Prep and Senior students spellbound by her account of life as a wildlife filmmaker, marine biologist, ocean conservationist and underwater photographer. I’ve been interviewing Year 5 pupils all week, and it came as no surprise to learn that we now have at least three aspiring marine biologists in our midst thanks to Inka’s magical talk. Today we’ve had our first Busy Bees event in the Hive, a skills exchange which saw parents and grandparents sharing tips on upcycling with our students.

Looking ahead to International Women’s Day next week, we have more brilliant people to introduce. On Wednesday, Kristen Chick, nutritional therapist and lecturer, is coming to school to shine a light on perimenopause; we’ll be supporting the Football Association’s #LetGirlsPlay event, introducing as many girls as possible to this growing women’s sport; Kevin Stannard, the GDST’s Director of Learning and Innovation will be here in the evening to talk about the Girls’ Futures Report, and will be speaking alongside local champion of women in tech, Rifa Thorpe-Tracey, and a panel of parents, alumnae and current students.

Why is it so important to have this steady stream of visitors to the school?

In my International Women’s Day assembly on Wednesday, I will be offering one answer to this. I will be celebrating the lives of two brilliant Brighton Girls alumnae: Dr Louisa Martindale CBE, surgeon, physician and pioneer in women’s health, and her sister, Hilda Martindale OBE, campaigner for the improvement of working conditions, particularly those of women. Louisa and Hilda grew up at the end of the Nineteenth Century surrounded by interesting people – their mother, Louisa Spicer Martindale, was an active suffragist, “a champion of a larger life for women”, and her open house approach introduced Louisa and Hilda to stories, ideas, and institutions they would go on to challenge.

It is exactly this kind of environment we hope to create at Brighton Girls, one which exposes us to myriad voices and inspires us to consider the world beyond. We are in the process of relaunching our ‘Culture Vultures’ lecture series for this very reason. The half-termly series will see staff, parents, alumnae and members of the wider community deliver talks on all sorts of topics for the enrichment of our students.

Louisa Spicer Martindale moved to Brighton in 1885 for one reason: so that her daughters could attend the wonderland that was then Brighton and Hove High School. They both went on to achieve great things and helped to carve a more hopeful future for women. In fact, Louisa Martindale is soon to be honoured in the city – the new building at the Royal Sussex County Hospital is to be named the Martindale Building in her memory.

I like to think that the time Louisa and Hilda spent at our school was transformative. This busy, bustling world, where stories were shared and ideas exchanged, will have helped to shape their characters and inspired them to go out and make a positive difference in the world. I’m sure the same will be true of all our students. I hope they will look back one day and, like Alice after her adventures in Wonderland, will appreciate the difference their experience made.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday – because I was a different person then”.