Year 13 Team-Building Day
On a very sunny Friday in late August, Yr 13 pupils embarked on a team building day at Lorne Outdoor Pursuits Centre, as they celebrated their very successful GCSE results and began to think about the challenges of sixth form. As pupils enter sixth form they join a new form class, established through the school House system. It is therefore imperative that strong friendships develop quickly.
During the day pupils had the opportunity to work in teams and participate in a wide range of activities. They included archery, bushcraft and abseiling, to name just a few. The activities allowed the pupils to improve working relationships, build trust and confidence within each other and develop leadership skills, as well as everyone simply having fun.
Year 8 Ballykinler Trip
On 26th-28th September, our Year 8 spent two nights at Ballykinler Barracks, learning how to pack a kit, camp outdoors and work in teams to complete tasks. Most importantly, it gave the pupils an opportunity get to know fellow member of their year group. The boys enjoyed their time away and it was clear to see that the experience had made them more confident in their ability to face challenges head-on and work with others to problem-solve tasks which were often out of their comfort zone.
CCEA Maths Week
On Monday 15th October, to mark the beginning of “Maths Week” in Ireland, CCEA held a Maths event to which a group of BGS pupils were invited.
I loved the whole event as it was very interactive and taught me how useful Maths truly was! Firstly, once everyone took their seats, we were enlightened on the agenda and numerous people with STEM related careers spoke to us about the countless paths you can take with mathematical skills. For example, I learned that everything engineered by mankind has needed mathematical skills to create, such as the laptop I am typing this review on!
After our break, we were tasked with building a rocket out of paper and masking tape to discover which design went the furthest (and why). My rocket won, as it flew like a dart across the hall, past my fellow year 10’s. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also enjoy the prize of a Galaxy chocolate bar since my rocket went the furthest! I was then allowed to go and try the VR headsets provided by KAINOS and they were amazing! It’s hard to believe that they were created by just utilising the STEM subjects and I would love to be a part of their manufacture in the future.
Once we had lunch we came back in and were presented with the challenge to build the tallest free-standing structure made of Lego. Sadly, my group did not win but it taught me that it needs to have a low centre of gravity.
Finally, our last task was to create a machine which could draw a circle and had limited supplies of a polystyrene cup, two pens and a battery. In the end my group received a Galaxy chocolate bar because of our machine which could draw numerous circles!
Many of us who live in the developed world have a rather bleak impression of Africa. As with any generalisation, that is not the whole truth.
After departing BGS on the afternoon of the 30th June team BGS (4 teachers and 33 boys) touched down in Kampala after a 20-hour journey.
After a few days of rest and some basic training, we (in team A) began our journey north to Gulu province. There was a notable difference between Kampala and the more northerly settlements. Less than 10 years ago the northern provinces of Uganda were engaged in a war between the Ugandan military and the fundamentalist group, The Lords Resistance Army. The LRA took over 66,000 child soldiers and 2 million Ugandans were forced out of their homes and into cities such as Gulu. The war in Uganda is long over, but only a few hundred miles from there, other bloody wars are still being fought in Sudan and the Congo.
On arriving at Coo-rom, the school that Bangor Grammar is sponsoring, we were happily greeted by the schoolchildren who treated us to a traditional African folk dance. To see primary school children dancing in lines, wielding drums and hatchets seems strange, but it was, at the time, a most pleasing performance. In an age where so much tradition is forgotten, it is unusual to see such a thing performed so beautifully. This was seen again on our community walk, when we visited the collections of huts where the children who attended the school lived.
All of these huts are made of clay and mud bricks, with roofs made of thatched straw. The men and women and many of the children spend most of their time maintaining their small farms, where they grow crops to feed themselves. They work so they may live. This is how their ancestors lived 50 years ago and 5000 years ago, and for many they shall live like this for many years more.
On returning to Gulu city and later, Kampala, I had a better understanding of what the Abaana organisation was doing. By building better educational facilities, these children had been given a better quality of education and a better chance of making it to a secondary school and later, university. Walking through the streets and markets we saw many smartly-dressed, professional Ugandans commuting to work. How many of them had been educated in a school like Coo-rom?
Over the Halloween break Bangor Grammar School, Bangor Academy and Saint Columbanus sent a team of fifteen pupils to India, working with the charity Saphara. I was fortunate enough to be part of the team on behalf of Bangor Grammar School. The journey for our students began during September 2017 and involved rigorous fundraising, classroom training and preparation for the inevitable culture shock. The journey culminated with a ten-day trip to India where our students were expected to deliver lessons in Kaplani High School and Sneha Doon Academy.
My trip to India with Saphara has changed my perspective on life. I was sceptical but excited about the trip, not knowing what I was going to experience or witness, but it was emotional, and worth every penny of my fund–raising, and every ounce of effort I exuded on the trip. The first few days were a chance to get to get to know each other a lot better, and to immerse ourselves in the Indian culture. I’m surprised how close I have become to so many people in such a small period of time, and I would hope and think we would stay friends for life. I think we were all taken aback by the culture – the busy streets, the animals on the side of the road, and the constant busy traffic. The teaching was really when the worthwhile and life-changing work started. The children were so happy to be in school, which was infectious for us as teachers. Some kids had to walk two hours up a nearby mountain to get to school, which was an inspiration in itself. Although the lesson planning was draining and took much effort, it was all worthwhile when the kids were able to complete the work, enhancing their English, and gaining confidence in the process. Even if I’ve helped one child on this trip, it has been an overwhelming success. I would recommend this experience to anyone if you want to experience a different culture, have a good laugh, and change lives.
Harry Ellesmere, Year 14
The most significant feature of this trip was the opportunity to experience where my fundraising was really going. Through this, not only have I been able to establish a greater relationship with the Saphara charity but also with the amazing pupils selected. I’ve gained a far greater understanding of the materially–deprived families within India. Although this was a small sample, it certainly put my daily lack of appreciation into perspective. Many people informed me prior that this trip would be a once in a lifetime experience, which it definitely turned out to be. I feel far more informed about politics and culture in India. For me this trip has was an invaluable experience.
Charles F Mackinnon
India is a truly addictive country. The chaos and the excitement of India is palpable every second of every day. This place ceases to be a country but is a living thing; everything feels alive. The city streets are like a beating heart filled with energy. Nothing can prepare you for this place, there is nowhere like it anywhere on earth, no story can capture the busyness of Delhi or the beauty and majesty of Mussoorie. Teaching the students of Kaplani and Sneha schools has been the most rewarding experience of my life to date and a memory that will last a lifetime. I can confidently say that some of the happiest and most challenging moments of my life have happened on this trip. The joy I felt teaching students at Kaplani is indescribable; so too is the sadness I felt leaving that place. I have laughed and cried in the space of an hour and I am a better person for it. I owe so much to the children I worked with – they were as much teachers as me – and if I could show half the resilience, determination and passion they did I would be happy. I am forever grateful to them for what they have taught me. This trip has completely changed my outlook on every aspect of my life and I hope I can carry the values I’ve seen here for the rest of my life and pass on what I’ve learnt to others.
Lewis Joyce, Year 14
The list of attributes I have learnt from the beauty of the Indian culture is countless. From appreciating everything I have, to realising the tiny patterns and arts of India which make it all one sophisticated art piece that words cannot describe. One thing I’ll take away from India for the rest of my life is the passion the teachers have for teaching at SNEHA Doon Academy and that one day I will hopefully have the same charisma and passion as them. They are the true idols and heroes of India. Walking through the pristine corridors of Sneha, there’s a saying I will cherish from the girls’ empowerment program at the school, helping young girls reach their full potential; ‘Educate a man, then you’ve educated an individual. Educate a woman then you’ve educated a family.’ A truly life changing experience. Thank you Saphara for this opportunity, I’ll treasure it forever.
For me, my trip to India began when Joanne presented the idea of Saphara to my entire year group just over a year ago. From there, the daunting interview and many breaktime and lunchtime meetings, as well as the efforts made by my family in fundraising, finally resulted in me standing in darkness of Springhill car park at 3:30am. From that point on, I embarked on a trip with people who I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with, as they allowed me to believe in myself and my ability. However, whilst the amazing Himalayan views and jaw dropping Taj Mahal may have been amazing, it was the teaching that I enjoyed most. Whether it be the two boys who walk two hours a day to get to Kaplani or the children in Sneha who live in some of the most challenging living conditions. The sheer passion and will to learn has inspired me, and I feel I will return home with a revived drive to achieve my potential, as I feel I have learned the true power of education. For this opportunity, I am immensely thankful to Saphara. Charlie Chaplin once said, “You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use this power, let us all unite.” I feel that this is the pure embodiment of my time in India. In terms of tangible commodities, the children we taught have little, however, they greatly make up for it in the attitude they bring to life and the rich characters they possess.
Gareth Wells, Year 14
Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award
On Sunday the 11th November, exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent in 1918, BGS CCF cadets and officers formed up with the veterans to pay their respects to those who had given so much for us. Over 80 cadets formed up that morning, but looking around at the faces in other youth groups, so many from both schools had joined their friends with the Scouts, St Johns Ambulance, GB and many other youth groups.
This year the focus was on the youth, and representatives from schools and youth organisations were invited to read at the Cenotaph, our RSM Jacq Watton was last to read, then he and Coxian Meharg laid wreaths on behave of the CCF.
Theatre company ‘Terra Nova’ may be a familiar name to a number of readers, following the exciting run of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ which was staged in Belfast in 2016. Following this successful performance, Terra Nova Productions was lucky enough to secure European PEACE IV funding from Ards and North Down to produce a giant, intercultural version of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ in the Borough in 2018 and 2019.
This year the company offered BGS students the exclusive opportunity to work with a professional facilitator for two in-school Drama workshops which would give them a flavour of some of the themes which would be explored by the participants of the DREAM project.
The BGS Drama Department was pleased to welcome Hannah Reilly to the school to deliver a full four-hours of thespian activities to selected Year 9-11 students.
A local graduate of Queens’ University Belfast, Hannah specialises in applied and physical theatre. Hannah took our pupils through a variety of exercises; beginning with games and individual improvisation tasks, before moving on to group tableaux work and performances. A ‘walking debate’ encouraged the students to consider some current and controversial topics such as social media and the importance of school, followed by group skits on ‘families in conflict’ which demonstrated to the boys the wide variety of ways this could be interpreted, and the different situations which families can find themselves in.
Senior Dramatic Society
The boys of Drama BGS marked the centenary anniversary of the armistice with three performances of Frank McGuinness’s well-known play ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’. This play was originally commissioned to mark the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Somme and tells the story of eight men who sign up to the 36th Ulster Division at the start of the war and go on to fight at the Battle of the Somme in July, 1916. The play is a tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the men but also serves to question the nature of the war and looks at the complexity of identify in Northern Ireland.
As audiences arrived, they witnessed actors in British army uniforms of the time-period training in the stable yard; this was effective in establishing a link with the past and had huge impact on the audience as they entered the venue. Just prior to the performance, historian Philip Orr, author of ‘The Road to the Somme’ presented an informative talk on the local connections between Clandeboye Estate and Frank McGuinness' play. This context helped to introduce the themes of the play and added greatly to the significance of the event itself.
Two further productions took place at the Space Theatre SERC on the 30th November and 1st December.
Moving Image Arts
The BFI Academy is a course offered by Cinemagic that allows teenagers who are interested in any aspect of film to make their own short film and to work alongside industry professionals. This year, Joshua Gould and Martin Ozarek in Year 13 won places on this prestigious course and recently completed their experience with a screening of their finished film. Both boys
The BFI course starts off with people in groups of 4 or 5 coming together with an idea for a short film. These ideas are then pitched to short film director Patrick Maxwell. We then vote on which two we think are best. When the two films are decided upon, we then get the opportunity to choose which of the two productions we want to work on.
Throughout the months that followed, we attended masterclasses with industry professionals such as actress, Lucy Fallon (Coronation Street), director David Caffrey (Peaky Blinders, Luther) and director Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones and upcoming feature film 17 Bridges). These industry experts talked about their experience, offered advice and techniques they use on a daily basis for their jobs.
The short film was filmed over two days, primarily on location in an old St John’s Ambulance garage in Belfast, which had been sourced by one of the other film-makers. We then hired two industry actors to play the parts for our film. Cinemagic provided us with hired, industry equipment to film with as well. It was very exciting to get hands-on with the equipment and the resulting footage looked really good. We filmed on location for two days, then two of the candidates edited the footage to five it that final cinematic look.
Another old boy of the school and former participant in the Cinemagic academy, Luke Alexander, recently won the award for Best Editing in the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles in November. Luke was kind enough to share his experiences since leaving BGS with the Gryphon.
Since I was little I had a passion for filmmaking and took every opportunity to grab the family camcorder from my dad to make short films with my friends and, when they were absent, using action figures and plasticine models. Whilst Moving Image Arts was not offered yet as a subject to study when I attended Bangor Grammar, I was fortunate to have some very supportive teachers in the BGS Art & Design department who allowed me to create moving image final pieces for my Art projects; providing I demonstrated my understanding of the intended subject matter through charcoal sketches and mood boards.
The final ‘live action’ project I produced while at BGS was a short video created for the Sixth Form end of year formal, held before we disappeared off to revise for our impending exams. The video featured the Class of 2012 (plus numerous members of willing staff) enthusiastically hamming it up in true BGS fashion to classic and contemporary music tracks. (The video is still available online on YouTube for those curious to see alumni throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the BGS experience in the old College Avenue building - see below.)
Following my education at BGS, and guided by some good careers advice I received there, I moved to the University of York to study a BSc in Film and Television Production. Once again I was taught by talented and enthusiastic mentors who encouraged and helped me to refine my film-making technique and process through hands-on practical lessons, theoretical learning and the study of the history of film and television.
After graduating in 2015 I returned home to Northern Ireland and began the difficult task of securing work: a task found daunting by many after the security of structured learning. I worked on several short films and as a camera assistant on the live broadcast from Belfast of BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. On this and other projects I was able to tap into the excellent practical training I had received in the superb studio facilities at university. I also found work with a local production company as a camera assistant on their crew, filming behind the scenes on HBO’s Game of Thrones’ Season 6 in various local locations.
With a bit of experience built up I was now able to join the full-time crew on Season 7 of Game of Thrones as a Northern Ireland Screen trainee in the Grip Department. As the grip department is responsible for everything that the camera is attached to including, but not limited to, track and dolly, cranes, jibs and gimbals, there was never a dull moment and my days were full of relentless activity. Whilst the schedule was difficult and the hours were long, I nonetheless valued every moment of my experience working alongside top-tier industry professionals, despite the challenges it posed. During Season 7, I was on the crew that filmed in numerous locations across Northern Ireland (I’ve now visited all of the bleakest corners of the province) and also travelled to Spain for nine weeks on location, shooting the scenes to depict the more arid climes of the fictional Westeros region. To call these experiences an adventure would be an understatement.
With GOT Season 7 completed, I worked on Season 2 of ITV/Netflix’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, which was filmed in Belfast and featured Sean Bean as Inspector Marlott. Filming this series meant I was not required to venture as far from home as had been the case on Game of Thrones and I was fortunate to work alongside several familiar faces from the crew of Thrones, both of which made the experience all the more enjoyable.
After this I was asked back as part of the crew to work on the 8th and final season of Game of Thrones. If I had thought my time as a trainee grip had been tough previously, I had to steel myself for the demands of the final season. Filming continuously for just over 10 months, the final season of Thrones proved to be just as challenging to the crew and myself as it was for the production’s fictional characters and the obstacles they had to overcome. This season included a gruelling period of 55 night shoots that required myself and the rest of the crew to become nocturnal for 11 weeks to film the ambitious ‘Long Night’ battle scene that broke records for the longest action scene in history. After weeks of mud, blood and freezing temperatures you would have been forgiven for mistaking crewmembers for the zombie extras shuffling about the set.
And then seemingly no sooner had it begun and Game of Thrones wrapped for the final time and my time on the HBO production was over. Whilst difficult and challenging at times, I feel privileged to have worked on the biggest TV show in the world alongside a brilliant cast and crew.
Since then I have been able to pursue my own projects and have had the time to complete my first short film since graduating. Calling on the experience I gained at uni and my time on Thrones I wrote, directed, produced and edited a short film called ‘Echoes in the Forest’. This was shot over the course of a week in Woodburn forest park and featured its own fair share of mud, blood, rain and smoke; perhaps my own way of dealing with life, post-Thrones. The lead role was played by fellow BGS old boy, James McMullan.
While this self-produced and self-funded short was intended as a personal test of my abilities and a new addition to my portfolio, I decided to enter it in several local and international film festivals. Much to my surprise, my short was selected and screened at the 2018 Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles. I flew out to attend the festival and was thrilled to see my film shown on the big screen in a full-size cinema alongside a brilliant selection of shorts for an American audience. This felt like an amazing achievement but when I heard that my film had been recognised with the award for ‘Best Editing in a Short Film’ during the closing ceremony to the festival, I felt that buying my plane ticket had been money well spent!
Christmas Carol Service
The 2018 Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols presented the usual assortment of the traditional and the modern that we’ve come to expect from one of our longest running whole school events. Long established seasonal offerings from Mendelssohn, Ord, Holst and Willcocks were rounded out with new works by Will Todd and Darren Baird as well an arrangement created and tailored especially for the Year 14. Forty-five old boys attended the service in Bangor Parish Church, the largest number recorded, with the vast majority performing in the BGS Concert Band and Choir. Next year will be our 50th service since it began in 1969.
Clifton Christmas Party
The Austrian resort of Ehrwald is situated close to the border of Bavaria. The Hotel Sonnenburg sits on the Ehrwald slopes and is just 5-10 minute walk from the village centre. It is a superb resort offering guaranteed snow and no less than 200kms of piste.
The lift pass entitled us to use any of the nine ski areas in the Zugspitze Ski circuit. The Sonnenburg Hotel is on the Ehrwald slopes and the Zugspitze Glacier is a short ski from the hotel. The areas of Lermoos, Biberweir and Ehrwalder Alm are all within a 10 minute journey from our hotel.
Ehrwald, what an amazing experience and fantastic time I had. This was my second time to visit Ehrwald with school and my second time skiing. Last time I visited this winter wonderland, I had an unbelievable time, so when a space opened up for the trip I grabbed it. I was worried, due to the amazing time I had before, I was setting my hopes too high for this trip. But I was so wrong. I got to challenge myself this time, learn how to do jumps, go off-piste, and even ski down a slope with one ski on! An outcome of doing all these fantastic things, was many falls.
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