Taunton School is a leading independent school for boys and girls aged 0 to 18 years, located in Somerset, in the South West of England. Taunton School offer boarders and day pupils an opportunity to live a full and forward-looking school life.
ITV’s Doc Martin actor Ian McNeice chats with Taunton drama students
Drama students at Taunton School recently had the unique opportunity to interview former Taunton School student and well-loved actor, Ian McNeice – best known for playing “Bert Large” in ITV’s Doc Martin – in a virtual question and answer session.
12th June 2020 — Drama students at Taunton School recently had the unique opportunity to interview former Taunton School student and well-loved actor, Ian McNeice, in a virtual question and answer session.
Ian, who is best known for playing “Bert Large” in ITV’s Doc Martin is a classically trained actor, having studied at LAMDA and worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years. During the virtual meeting, he regaled the students with tales from Hollywood, working with Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Radcliffe, Cameron Diaz and Jim Carrey, mentioning that it all started with his performance in Charlie’s Aunt at Taunton School.
Ian, who was a student at Taunton School in the 1960s, said: “I owe a great deal to Taunton School - it’s where it all began. I would encourage any young person interested in a career as an actor to get some proper training and persevere. It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t look back!”
Head of Drama Melanie Stamp said: “The pupils were so lucky to have this fantastic opportunity to interview a national treasure. He was so inspirational and interesting and we all really enjoyed hearing fascinating memories and anecdotes from his film and stage career. I was a little star struck (as were the students!) but the one thing I will take away was the passion he has for performance which was conveyed so clearly in the warmth of his speech when discussing his life.”
Taunton School Young Enterprise team win County Finals
Taunton School’s Young Enterprise team have been crowned Winners for Somerset with their eco-friendly edible cup product, “BisCup”. They will now go on to represent Somerset with their product in the South West Finals in June.
26th May 2020 — Each year, a group of Year 12 business students are invited to set up and run a business as part of the national Young Enterprise scheme. This year, students at Taunton School decided to come up with a solution to disposable cups, creating the product “BisCup”. The company statement proclaims BisCup to be “an edible biscuit cup made from natural grains and cereals. It is environmentally-friendly, tasty, crispy and suitable for all kinds of hot and cold beverages.”
Managing Director of BisCup and Year 12 student Miles Butt said: “The idea of selling edible cups came to us as a company through our shared belief in the need for sustainable alternatives to plastics. We are immensely proud of our student led company for winning the Young Enterprise county finals and we hope for more success as we continue onto the regional stage where we will be competing with other companies across the West of England.”
Headmaster Lee Glaser said: “I’m delighted that Team BisCup have been recognised for their hard work on such a worthy business idea. They have persevered with getting their important message out there despite the current challenges and fully deserve this success. I wish them all the very best in the regional finals.”
Team BisCup will now go on to represent Somerset with their product in the South West Finals in June.
Since the School's Young Enterprise teams have chosen to target environmental or social issues for their business ideas, they have won the County round in five out of the last six years. 2019 saw team “GoSip” win the county round with their social enterprise business seeking to end mental health discrimination with their herbal tea bags and branded mugs.
Taunton School student selected for prestigious National Youth Theatre
Haleem Clift, a Year 13 A Level student at Taunton School, has been recognised for his acting talent after being chosen to join the National Youth Theatre (NYT).
18th May 2020 — 18-year-old Haleem, who joined Taunton School in the sixth form was selected out of thousands of entries across the UK.
Haleem, who is a Taunton School Patrons' Programme bursary recipient commented: “I love drama and acting, but I wasn’t sure about drama school. When I heard about NYT, it seemed perfect. It’s a programme for 14-25-year-old actors/actresses to develop and grow. It differs from drama schools in that it’s not full-time. Being part of NYT means you have opportunities to audition for stage and screen casting, develop your ability through workshops and masterclasses and meet other young actors.”
Haleem auditioned in Bristol earlier this year taking part in a 5-hour workshop including improvisation and group work, followed by a 10-minute monologue interview. He said: “It was a great day. I genuinely walked out and said to my mum that I’m not bothered if I don’t get in, it was a great experience. When I got the email 3 months later, it was a lovely surprise. I feel very excited about what the future could hold.”
He added: “As with any success though, there’s always a lot that goes on behind the scenes. For me, this came from my Drama teacher Mrs Stamp and the School Chaplain Mrs Winter, as well as ongoing support from my school house staff. Mrs Stamp helped me choose my monologue and has challenged me with interesting roles at School. Mrs Winter first introduced me to the NYT. Having worked as a professional actor, I’ve been lucky to have been mentored and coached by her. The acting and performance skills I have learnt have been invaluable, both on and off-stage.”
Melanie Stamp, Head of Drama at Taunton School commented: “Haleem's performance of Ajay Chopra the boxer from the play Beautiful Burnout by Bryony Lavery was an instant hit (pardon the pun) when he first performed the role as part of his Year 12 Drama A Level. Haleem has always had an exceptional ability to engage with a role and create empathetic, detailed and emotionally complex characters. He has a subtlety to his performance which is captivating to watch. This is a phenomenal achievement and he deserves every credit for it! I am just so happy for him!”
The next step for Haleem is a one-week summer intake course, which will take place on the virtual platform Zoom this year.
The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain was established in 1956 and states that it “is a world-leading youth arts organisation… We inspire, nurture and showcase exceptional performers and theatre technicians from Great Britain and Northern Ireland…”
World renowned alumni of NYT include Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matt Lucas and many more.
School Choir triumphs with poignant virtual VE Day performance
The Taunton School Music Department have managed to produce an incredible large-scale choir performance remotely with over 60 singers in spite of lockdown measures.
8th May 2020 — Taunton School Director of Music Mark Cracknell and his team have been holding virtual rehearsals for the past three weeks with the School’s Community Choir – a group which includes students, staff and the wider Taunton School community. Their efforts culminated in a moving rendition of Michael Jackson’s “You are not Alone” shown for the first time on Taunton School’s social media on VE Day, encouraging listeners to take a moment to reflect, remember and bring together the whole community on an important day.
Mark Cracknell explained how he carried off such a feat: “First I made the backing track, playing in all the parts and mixing it. We then held live rehearsals on the school virtual learning platforms; about 60 people came along and sang while we did warm ups and rehearsed the piece. I then put the backing tracks with guide parts for all the parts onto the internet for them to rehearse.”
Mark created videos giving instructions of how choir members could record themselves, with the backing track playing through headphones. After a couple of weeks of rehearsals, the individual films started to flood in. Mark said: “I mixed all the various singers together so that they were together and balanced with each other and the backing track.”
The response on social media has been overwhelming with thousands of views over the VE commemoration weekend.
Mark said: “I think it's a great achievement for our first attempt at a virtual choir, with the community coming together to sing a positive message. Highlighting the quality and breadth of our music making in the school and doing something in a relatively short time that is incredibly worthwhile. Music is a vital part of our communities and makes such a positive impact on our wellbeing - something which is incredibly important at the moment.”
“As we go further into the lockdown period and virtual schooling we are now producing a contrasting upbeat song - Elton John's classic and apt – ‘I'm Still Standing!’”
Six-year-old Patrick youngest member of volunteer group making items for NHS
A six-year-old pupil from Taunton School is working round the clock sewing essential items for NHS workers as part of the community group, ‘Taunton Scrubbers’.
30th April 2020 — Since learning to use a sewing machine at the age of 5, Patrick Dixon, who is in Year 1 at Taunton School, has been busy creating facemasks and headbands on his sewing machine, under the supervision of his mum, Eva.
Eva said: “I’m very proud to have taught Patrick to sew. He is the youngest member of Taunton Scrubbers and everyone loves him; he’s even inspired local scouts to have a go at sewing for the NHS.”
She added: “Covid-19 has brought some much needed awareness to Cystic Fibrosis which Patrick has. He has needed to wear a mask from a very early age, and used to get a lot of stares; this is one of the reasons why he wanted to start making masks and other items for everyone when it became a necessity for the whole country.”
Despite being unable to leave the house for weeks, Patrick has been participating in home schooling, daily lung physio and has given up lots of his play time to continue with his sewing in order to help others.
Patrick says: “I’m used to having to be careful about germs all the time, but it must feel very scary for all the people who are not used to it. This is why I wanted to help. Also, I go to the hospital a lot to see my CF Team and I want to help keep them safe, because they help me all the time.”
Taunton Scrubbers is a voluntary group founded by Susan McDonnell. Susan has managed to inspire hundreds of people from the local community to join forces and make free scrubs and other protective items for the NHS and other carers. Orders for scrubs and other protective equipment is increasing exponentially with the number of items distributed to date at 2,951.
Local hospital departments, care homes, GP surgeries and other carers can contact Taunton Scrubbers via email and state what protective equipment they need (scrubs, hair caps, headbands or scrub bags) and the group volunteers will make them in their own homes using fabric and material either purchased by themselves or donated/sponsored by local shops and individuals who might not be able to sew, but still would like to support the cause.
You don’t have to be able to sew to be a part of the volunteering group, however. Many people help with delivering items and materials, fabric donations collections, sewing machine repairs, administrative aspects of the group such as answering queries and dealing with social media and storing and sorting finished items ready for distribution.
Eva commented: “This is a project all of us are incredibly proud of and it has really brought the whole community together in an effort to try help out those who are working so hard to keep us safe.”
Louise Leah, Head of Taunton School Pre-Prep said: “Everyone at TPPS are so incredibly proud of Patrick for his hard work and desire to help the NHS at such an important time.”
School teacher sets 3D printers to work making visors for NHS staff
Taunton School’s Head of Design & Technology, Glyn Bough, has risen to the challenge to support the NHS by using school devices to make specialist PPE equipment.
3rd April 2020 — Having been made aware of the need to supply medical visors, Glyn set the school 3D printers to work 24/7 making essential visor clip components. He has been working with manufacturers to determine design specifications, and once made they will be shipped to Dulwich College London who are centrally locating them to attach to the face shields.
In addition, Taunton School has also donated all spare safety glasses, goggles and gloves to Musgrove Park Hospital.
Upon hearing about Glyn’s work with 3D printers via social media, local firm Taylor Wimpey have offered their own 3D printer as an additional resource for Taunton School to use for this important project.
The first batch of visor components will be sent off this Friday.
Glyn said: “There is a movement within the Design and Technology Departments across the country to help with the Covid-19 pandemic. And, having come from a family that have worked for the NHS for many years I felt we need help in any way we can. We have the machines, and we have the material; so why not? We will make as many as we can. We are also utilising our laser cutting facilities to make alternative versions of visors.”
Headmaster Lee Glaser said “This is a great example of community spirit and initiative during these testing times. I’m grateful to Glyn and to all who are making the difference.”