Year 8 Ballykinler Trip
When I first heard about the Ballykinler trip, I was very excited about going on a residential at the start of a new school year, full of new people and new opportunities.
When we got to school on that Wednesday morning everyone was really excited and ready for the trip ahead. We all had suitcases, bags and rucksacks, and were waiting for the coaches with our designated groups and teachers. I had a few friends in my group, but most of my other friends and primary school friends were in different groups. As we awaited the coach arriving, we checked that we had all our essentials with us.
After an hour's drive to Ballykinler, we arrived at the base and were told to go and unpack. I changed into warmer clothes because we were about to go out and play some games. When free time was over we took a walk down to the sports hall. When we got there, we went on the low-ropes and it was great fun, going over obstacles and trying to get to the end. There were lots of fun activities to do, including a bungee run. We were strapped onto a bungee rope on an inflatable double runway, and were given a velcro sticker to try and run as far as we could and stick it on the side and whoever won. There was also a life-sized 'football table' where we were strapped onto a pole just like the characters inside the game, which I found really enjoyable and had a great time.
Eventually it was time for dinner and everyone was hungry, so we all walked back to the dinner hall and had some food. To wind down for the evening went to a room with a projector screen so we went there and watched a movie for a bit, then came back and got hot chocolate and a muffin and went to bed. To be honest I didn’t get much rest or sleep because I constantly was uncomfortable and everyone was chatting and fidgeting, so I didn’t look or feel too well the next day. Well after I got the four hours of sleep we finally got up after the longest night of my life and got ready and then had breakfast. After breakfast we got straight into activities; we went and played more games that were set up. First we were at the target range where we used BB guns to shoot the targets. Then we did an inflatable assault course, where we raced an opponent to the end.
After another well-earned lunch, we started to pack up for Tullymore. We were going to stay overnight in tents, so when we got there we got into our tents and unpacked, and then went for a walk, along the rivers edge. It was a nice, peaceful walk and we got to walk over the stones on the water.
When we got back, we played different activities like Laser Tag, bushcraft, archery and cricket and then had dinner, which was great as I was starving after all the activities. After dinner we went on another walk so we could get our eyes adjusted for the darkness of the night. We then had hot chocolate and muffins, but I just went to bed as I was absolutely wrecked from the previous night - I fell asleep long before everyone started fidgeting and talking again.
The next day we had breakfast and took down our tents, and then got back to Ballykinler where we had free time to get ready to go home and to rest for a bit as we hadn’t stopped all trip. We had lunch, then went home on the coach, where I tried to sleep through all the singing and loud talking - but of course I couldn’t. When we got home I was very happy to get a good sleep - it made me appreciate that I had a proper bed to sleep on. I enjoyed the trip and definitely recommend it to all the Year 8s to come.
Corey McKibben, Year 8
Xiola Blue at Maida Vale
Maida Vale is renowned as one of the most famous recording studios for live music. Built in 1909, the studios were originally the home of Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club. In the 1930s however, the complex became home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was used as a temporary broadcasting centre for the BBC News Service during the second world war. Since then, the London studios have hosted some of music’s most famous icons from Led Zeppelin to Radiohead and Coldplay to Jay-Z , while artists including The Beatles and David Bowie have released retrospective albums of their BBC recordings. The studios are still regularly used and are the site of the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge where the likes of Sam Fender, Stormzy and even Bangor Grammar’s Two Door Cinema Club have all recorded live sessions. As one of the most iconic venues in music, it is the last place I would expect find myself recording at the age of 16. On the 19th of September, our very own band travelled to London in order to record 3 live tracks for the BBC at Maida Vale studios.
The news of the trip came as a shock to all of us. We had played our first original gig at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast back in June of the same year. We had no idea that within the first three months of gigging we would be presented with such an opportunity. It just so happened that we managed to get our timing perfect. At that same show, freelance broadcaster, photographer and graphic designer Betsy Bailie turned up to support the local music scene. After hearing our set she relayed us on to her dad, Stu Bailie, who has worked for NME, written scripts for BBC documentaries, and has hosted BBC Radio Ulster's 'Across The Line'. It was essentially thanks to her that we got our first Radio play after uploading our first tracks to BBC’s 'Introducing' uploader. As a result of this, certain producers within the 'Introducing' network in Northern Ireland got wind of us. BBC's 'Introducing' is a platform that gives young and upcoming artists from around the UK the chance to showcase their musical talents.
Each year, Introducing run a campaign called ‘Ones to Watch’. This is when each local station has the chance to select a band who they think might be successful in the coming year, to travel to Maida Vale studios. At the point of selection we had no idea that this process took place, and with the abundance of talented artists within Northern Ireland, our chances appeared slim anyway. However, following the BGS Academic Prize Ceremony we received an email from Radio Ulster producer, Rory McConnell. To our absolute amazement, the BBC team at 'Across The Line' had chosen us to travel to London to record these tracks as part of the campaign. It was extremely overwhelming to be given the opportunity to record in the same building as the musicians who we, ourselves, looked up to.
The day of the load-in to the studio was all very surreal. Myself, Jakob and Luke had decided to leave our gear off first thing in the morning so as we had somewhere safe to leave it. Jacob would be meeting us all there later. In our previous trip to the city half of our equipment got stolen and we didn’t exactly want a repeat. It was at this point in the morning where we grabbed our passes and caught our first glimpse of the studio in which the session would be taking place. We were warmly welcomed and guided by the staff and Radio 1 senior producer, Andy Rogers. The complex at Maida Vale consists of several separate studios, some grander than others. We understood that, as a young band, we may be in one of the smaller rooms. After being led through a maze of corridors, we eventually approached our set studio. As Andy opened the door, it suddenly dawned on me that we weren’t in any old recording room. Within the space of a few hours, we were about to record in one of the two most iconic studios within the complex, MV4. This particular studio contained a vocal booth, large SSL Analog mixing desk and the iconic balcony where viewers could overlook the musicians. It had also previously been home to the Peel Sessions and is still used for Radio 1 events and shows that have since replaced Peel’s. Only four days before, Iggy Pop had recorded there, and now we were about to follow in his steps.
Senior Dramatic Society
After several years of staging productions at the Space Theatre, the Senior Dramatic Society returned to BGS for their daring production of Bertolt Brecht's 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui'. With a massive ensemble cast drawn from Years 10-14, the assembly hall was transformed through skilful use of lighting and projections into Prohibition-era Chicago. Gangsters, molls, crooked politicians all rubbed shoulders in a breathless production that charted the rise of the petty gangster Artuto Ui, played by Cain Henderson, as he rises to the top of the Chicago Underworld.
Children in Need is an event that brings nationwide attention to the actions of those who seek to benefit the lives of young people less fortunate than ourselves. It is an homage to the dedication of the many, many people who want to make a difference to somebody's life, and an opportunity to partake in absurd activities to raise funds with every single penny going to a variety of fantastic causes. And in Bangor Grammar School, this year's Children in Need was more spectacular than ever before.
Thursday 14th November kicked off with the annual Year 14 Costume Competition - a true creative spectacle that really brings out the best in people. This year featured some simply unbelievable outfits on display, including but not limited to: Pikachu, a dinosaur, Bruce Lee, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the Sultan of Brunei, Boris Johnson, not one but two unusual inflatable creatures, three McDonald's workers, Thomas Shelby and Waluigi. This is something that will certainly live long in the memory with all of this being for the benefit of charity and amusement alike!
But that wasn't all. Bangor Grammar were exceptionally proud to welcome none other than Stephen Clements himself as he presented his show on BBC Ulster from the school. This gave pupils and members of staff the opportunity to promote the brilliant causes that the school has supported, as well as demonstrating some of the amazing fundraising actions that have been so successful in raising such vast amounts of money for said causes. Most notably, the Head Boy Aqeel Mohamed and Deputy Head Boy Josh Hardy were questioned on the measures the school has taken to bring awareness to mental health, and Niall Warden was interviewed regarding a special new song release which he himself inspired.
Furthermore, a very special guest was also in attendance! Junior pupils could not contain their excitement as Pudsey Bear strolled around the school, meeting and greeting as well as entering classrooms to give some of these students a stunning surprise. The atmosphere was simply electrifying as Pudsey was welcomed with open arms, a real reflection of the community ethos of the school, and a brilliant demonstration of just how willing the school is to support such fantastic causes as these.
Additionally, pupils were delighted when they heard that they would be able to hurl sponges at their own principal. Sponge-throwing has now been firmly embedded in the tradition of Children in Need here at Bangor Grammar, but nevertheless the opportunity to drench Mrs Huddleson requires no invitation. As she reluctantly placed her head inside that feared circle, with Clements following her with a look of fear on his face, both were left helpless as pupils from all year groups joined in the fun as their heads were used as target practice for the expectant pupils. There was a distinct sense of schadenfreude that followed; a sense that in the end proved to be beneficial as copious amounts of cash were raised in support of the improvement of the life of someone who needs it most - and at the end of the day that is the most important thing.
To return to the song release, this had been a project that was long on the cards, and last week it came to fruition with outstanding effect. The song is a cover of 'When You Wish Upon A Star' specifically released with the purpose of obtaining as much money as possible to donate to Children in Need. Furthermore, the song received its first airplay on Clements' show with Niall Warden responding confidently as he was questioned as to how this all came about. The amount of money donated already stands at over £1,200 – a phenomenal tally raised especially with the hard work put in and the brilliant causes that this song will help support.
And the fun wasn't only restricted to Thursday either. Friday lunchtime saw the annual leg-waxing event, another staple of Children in Need in Bangor Grammar, where a group of around ten brave Year 14 volunteers prepared themselves to overcome the pain (literally) of losing their leg hair for charity. As many looked in mostly feigned shock and horror as the volunteers swiftly became the victims when the barrenness of their legs became clear, the money kept rolling on in and the good causes kept on benefitting. Even though these boys will have likely woken up on Saturday morning with a distinct sharpness in their lower tibia, they can hold their heads up high knowing that all of this came good in the end.
Clifton Christmas Party
50th Anniversary Christmas Carol Service
Peacing It Together
I had the opportunity to travel to Leipzig over the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall for a peace seminar supported by the UK-German Connection. Heading in to the trip I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; I had thought that it might be some sort of get-out-of-school-free card and an opportunity to practice my German for a weekend. However, I realised on the first night that it would be so much more. First of all, the conversations I experienced were fantastic and like none I had experienced before. Growing up in a mostly Unionist community, I had not previously heard such a wide spectrum of opinions, however on the seminar there were young people from every community and every part of Northern Ireland, as well as Germans from a range of German states. On the first evening when our dorm came together we had really engaging conversations on topics such as Brexit and the state of the European Union. When it came to the workshops and activities, they were also very engaging; promoting much discussion between young people on division within communities and groups of people, and more importantly, encouraging us to consider solutions to fix said problems.
Some of the workshops also involved a street tour of Leipzig and a visit to the Zeitgeschichtliches (contemporary history) Museum. I chose to complete the former in German to try and better my German listening ability. Unfortunately, I was only able to understand around 60% of what was said and so I switched to English for the museum tour. On the final full day of the seminar it was time to finish up with our work and give our group presentations, which went very well. On this day we continued to have many enriching discussions about divided nations and peoples, our discussions even going as far as North and South Korea. As the end of the trip grew nearer, I couldn’t help but think that it was one of the most enjoyable learning experiences of my life and that I am now entirely hooked on the idea of taking part in more seminars.
Overall, I returned much enlightened on the situation of young people across all denominations of Germany and Northern Ireland, and with a new desire to engage in more cross-community, national and international events of this nature as I believe it is very important for young people from all around the world.
Calum Spence, Y13
Jack Angus of Year 14 represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Festival of Lifesaving in Leeds on 21st November 2019. Teams from throughout the Commonwealth took part including Canada, Australia, South Africa and The Seychelles. Jack came in 5th overall in the rescue, completing the 100 metre Manikin Carry in a time of 1.00.60
On Saturday 11th January 2020 BGS Swimmers competed in Larne at the Ulster Junior and Intermediate Cup.
The Junior Swimmers comprising of Frank Allen, Austin Williams, Callum Slagter and Andrew Molyneaux all won Gold in both 200 free and 200 IM Relays. Frank and Austin also won individual medals Frank Bronze in 100m Back and Austin Bronze in 100m Fly and Silver in 100m Breast.