Repton School opened its doors to host the second Repton Literary Festival, which this year celebrated the rich history of both the School and village. Over three days talks and activities featured an eclectic blend of inspiring stories and fascinating guests, ranging across art, film, history, literature, music, sports, and theatre, as well as featuring live music, workshops and children’s events.
Festival events made the most of Repton school venues, including the award-winning theatre and the medieval Priory which houses the modern School Library, as well St Wystan’s Church, one of the finest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon architecture in England. It was appropriate then that the Festival opened with a fascinating talk from Dr Cat Jarman – bio-archaeologist, broadcaster, and resident Viking expert at the Repton Dig, which sits right in the centre of the School and village.
An impressive line-up of speakers included: Dr. Ben Lamb, the U.K.’s leading expert on TV crime dramas, who was joined by award-winning crime fiction writer Stephen Booth; Dominic Dromgoole, director, producer, author, filmmaker and former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre; Edwina Currie, author, former Cabinet minister and MP; and Dr. Wayne Allison, current technical director of the League Managers Association. But a particular highlight of the Festival progamme was a Q and A session with David Bradley. Made famous by his roles as Argus Filch in the “Harry Potter” films and Walder Frey in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Bradley explained how he coped with playing villains in the two biggest cult dramas of the past decade, as well as his appearances in a host of other British TV crime dramas from “The Professionals” to “New Tricks” and “Broadchurch”.
The Festival also celebrated the School’s distinguished literary alumni. Christopher Isherwood – the renowned novelist, playwright, screenwriter and activist and whose novella “The Berlin Stories” inspired the smash-hit musical “Cabaret” – was a pupil at Repton in the 1920s. His school days were recounted by Katherine Bucknell, academic, editor of his diaries and director of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. She also unveiled a plaque commemorating the writer’s time at Repton, which will be displayed in the School Library where he worked.
The Repton career of another former pupil, world-famous children’s author Roald Dahl, provided some fascinating material for an evening of his letters home, Love from Boy. Appropriately enough, these were presented by three more recent alumni who have forged very successful careers in the art. Nick Burns has worked extensively in theatre, film, and television. He gained notoriety from his title role in Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker’s Channel 4 comedy “Nathan Barley,” as well as recurring roles in “Benidorm,” “Man Stroke Woman,” “No Heroics,” “Manhunt,” “Doctor Who,” ”Harlots,” and “The Crown.” Actor, singer, songwriter, and Repton School alumnus, George Rainsford is well known for his regular roles in “Casualty,” “Call the Midwife,” and “Waking the Dead” and has also performed at the Royal Court, RSC, and National Theatre. Blair Dunlop has enjoyed an acclaimed career in music and film, with three albums, two EPs and several world tours. He is also recognized for his performance as the young Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s rendition of the classic Roald Dahl story “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Other Repton School alumni include Jeremy Clarkson, C B Fry, and Will Hughes.
The School is proud of the long list of distinguished artists, musicians, writers and academics that it has produced, including C B Fry, journalist and sportsman extraordinaire, actors Basil Rathbone and Tom Chambers, publisher Victor Gollancz, Sir Christopher Frayling, former Rector and Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the Royal College of Art, and writer and broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson. That vibrant engagement with the arts remains at the heart of the current pupils’ experience: events this month have included a visually stunning production of “A Christmas Carol” on the School’s main stage and an intriguing exhibition of drone photographs taken by a senior pupil, on display in one of its public gallery spaces.
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