In May this year Blackheath High School GDST opened the doors of its multi-million redevelopment for a Grand Opening evening welcoming parents, teachers, alumnae, students and a star-studded line-up of speakers.
Amongst the new facilities unveiled were a brand-new library and resources centre; specialist teaching environments for Art, Design & Technology and Music; cutting-edge Mac suite; the wellbeing sedum roof garden for girls to relax and enjoy; and ‘The Pod’, a contemplation space for meditation and idea generation.
Blackheath High has also boosted its sports offer by adding a brand-new top of the range fitness suite and outdoor games court to complement their existing multi acre Sports Campus. Plus a brand new Sixth Form Centre has been created to inspire a mature, pre-university atmosphere.
Among those invited to address the school community was prominent women’s rights campaigner and writer, Caroline Criado-Perez, who delivered a rousing speech on the need to give women the freedom and power to truly flourish.
Criado-Perez, who led the campaign to put Jane Austen on the £10 note, praised the school for ignoring gender stereotypes saying: “With girls here doing ballet, football, science and art – they are taught that the glass ceiling may exist but it is there to be smashed.”
Channelling Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the campaigner concluded her address by saying she hoped the all new Blackheath High School would provide the necessary space for Blackheath girls to flourish for generations to come.
Delivering the closing remarks was Head at Blackheath High School, Carol Chandler-Thompson who said: “These amazing new facilities are going to provide our girls with the very best learning environment for them to grow and become leaders of the future. It was only fitting that an unstoppable woman like Caroline was here to deliver a keynote speech that will inspire our girls to really make the most of these wonderful new surroundings.”
Joining Caroline and Carol was GDST CEO Cheryl Giovanni, who said: “Blackheath High’s ethos of inspiring individuality and championing equality is made more real, more concrete in these incredible school buildings.” She officially opened the new school by illuminating ‘Take Flight’ – an art installation, created by the students and the school’s Artist in Residence and Art Teacher, Imogen Gilbert. The symbol of a bird was chosen as one of freedom and possibilities, working both individually and as a collective. The flock of birds represents the students launching out into the world and flying high.
The finale of the grand opening ceremony saw the spectacular performance of the ‘Datchelor Fanfare’, a stunning piece of music composed and performed by the students, especially for the occasion.
As guests arrived, they were welcomed to the school by a string quartet before taking in an extraordinary fashion show performed by the students. Those in attendance then congregated in the heart of the school at the beautifully designed courtyard which features a “Mini-Louvre” for the keynote speeches.
Guests were treated to a culinary tour of the world: at the entrance there was a selection of Middle Eastern cuisine, while in other rooms, guests could tickle their taste buds with an array of delicious Caribbean and Mexican options, along with cocktails and a “Design Your Own Desert Station”.
From “Pop Cabaret”, to Romeo and Juliet, and Beat It Band, everywhere you looked, students were putting on highly entertaining musical and dramatic performances showcasing the school’s creative talent. TV screens throughout the school displayed a pre-recorded parody news clip of ITV News Anchor and Blackheath High alumna Charlene White saying “Hello” to her old teachers from the News at 10 studios where she now presents.
It truly was a night that had something for everyone and showed off just some of the potential of the brand-new school.