It was a small group of teachers and children that celebrated the opening of Michael House School on 13th September 1934. 80 years later in 2014 the teachers decided to celebrate the occasion with a ‘Big Party’ for the pupils, teachers, parents and old scholars, and the wider community of the school.
A few teachers and parents worked hard to prepare for this very happy celebration. The playground, surroundings and hall were bedecked with bunting and paper chains, much of which was made by the pupils. Chairs, benches and tables were laid out in companionable groups and an area was set aside for younger children. Clowning materials were provided and supervised by Chris Ehrenzeller. Trestle tables were placed alongside the kitchen awaiting the arrival of delicious bring and share food and most importantly we were blessed with warm, dry weather! When I arrived there was already a joyful atmosphere in the playground and the place was soon a buzz with conversations as more and more people joined the throng, meeting up with friends old and new.
In the nearby Eurythmy room there was a mar- vellous display (set up by Angela Clark, Sarah Wheatley and Vicky Clark) of photographs, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia from the schools first years in Ilkeston through to the present day. That the school has such a wonderful collection is due in no small measure to the painstaking work of Alan Clayton (an ex pupil from the early years and school archivist for many years). We thank him for this. Throughout the evening groups of old scholars, ex-parents and teachers were drawn in to peruse the display. There was much laughter and cries of ‘Look at this photograph of Mr Caris‘ or ‘is that really you’?
Also on display was an amazing Birthday Cake crafted by Anne-Marie Ashford. At first I thought it was a painted model. It was indeed a sculpture of coloured icing! Dominated by a large oak tree. This represented the 80th anniversary, a symbol of strength and endurability. There were 12 animals around it for the children to find, a flow-form, a bread oven and figures of children and teachers.
Soon it was time for feasting on the delicious food provided by parents, teachers and friends. And then, as the evening drew in a fire was lit in a large copper bowl at the centre of the playground. Next, whilst a small group of Michael House singers sang a Celtic song ‘Deep Peace’ the birthday Cake was cut. The honour of this went to two people: Norah Waite (nee Britten), the eldest old scholar present (she came to the school in 1935) and Eric Fairman who was a teacher at Michael House 1971 – 1887).
Meanwhile in the hall, adorned with an 80th anniversary quilted wall hanging made by Upper school pupils, the Red Lion folk band began to play and lead the dances for the Ceilidh. It was heart-warming to see young and old dancing together from toddlers to teenage pupils and their parents and teachers. An energetic joyful time was had by all.
Finally I want to thank and congratulate the organisers of the event: Sigrid Black, Imogen Beeston, Sarah Wheatley and Julie Wyer. It went so smoothly and had something for everyone. I met many people of all ages, all whom were enjoying themselves. From the ex-teachers such as Mike and Allysen Caris who had traveled from New Zealand to be here, and Eric Fairman who came from Nepal, from the old scholars, some from thirty or forty years ago, some more recent teenagers taking new steps in their education, to the school children enjoying the clowning and dancing. even the toddlers were having fun – the next generation of pupils!
Congratulations Michael House and Thank You.
Jane Tipper (ex teacher 1975 – 2008)