Thinking Creatively...

Art Exhibition 2015 Invite

I love this time of the year at school.

The structure and rigid formality, symbolised by serried rows of uniform exam desks and a proliferation of 'Silence' signs outside halls, begins to give way to a looser, more creative period...

Exams in Progress

It's epitomised by our Art Exhibition each year.

Art Exhibition 2014
Art Exhibition 2014

Amazing originality and flair...

This annual celebration of creativity at Park House has prompted me to muse on why certain periods of History seem to see bursts of cultural activity that set them aside from others.

As a 'Modern History' graduate (ok, my course did start in 410AD!), I won't stray into eras that 'aren't my period' (the standard historian's proactive approach to embarrassment in pub quizzes), although I do recall something significant about the Alfredian Renaissance in 10th Century Anglo-Saxon England and there was the bigger Renaissance-thingy in Europe a few hundred years later...

No, as Marc Bolan - so often himself seen as creative icon - so memorably expressed it, I'm a 'Twentieth Century Boy'! And more precisely than that, a child of the Sixties.

So, what sorts of factors do drive deep changes in thinking and break down established conventions?

War? (What is it good for?)

There's certainly something in the argument that the upheaval and trauma of 'total war' is a catalyst of cultural creativity. The unforeseen horrors of trench warfare from 1914-18 certainly shattered a cosy cultural consensus around conventional art forms, redefining any shared definition of 'normal' during the 1920s.

James Joyce
Virginia Woolf

Authors like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf poured out their inner turmoil in a new 'stream of consciousness' format and Picasso, amongst others, expressed their anguish through abstract  art...


Similarly, revulsion at the atrocities of the Vietnam War, the world's first 'media conflict', played out on TV screens in the comfortable front rooms of millions of middle class households across the world, is usually seen as a key trigger of 60s counterculture and new experimentation in Music and the Arts.

Vietnam War

The state of the economy?

A difficult one. There are some who would argue that the cultural revolution of 1960s was a corollary of its relative affluence. As western societies emerged from post-war Austerity, so attention could move from the severe and necessary to the flamboyant experimental. That of the 1970s, however, is often seen as a product of economic recession and shortage.

Sex Pistols

Punk? A revolution of the unemployed and socially excluded?


So where are we now?

Are young people today in danger of becoming exclusively a generation of consumers and not creators? (A question inspired by a recent meeting with the editor of our magazine Personal Best.) Homo - z -app - inans, whose lifestyle and the almost Instantaneous  knowledge and gratification supplied through the tablet or ever more sophisticated smart phone dulls rather than ignites the imagination?

Thankfully, I think not. I'm optimistic. And for two reasons.

Firstly, I've actually not come across a cohort of young people who seem more prepared to offer ideas for change - and to be prepared to lead it - than the present one. Maybe it's just the Park House effect! Just last week, for example, we appointed our third Student Editor of Personal Best. I'm not going to elaborate any further here, Sophie and her team, who suggested the initiative, are more than capable of doing that themselves. Our next edition isn't far way now...

And secondly, I'm seeing more and more evidence of the way in which Digital Technology can empower rather than debilitate. It's about mindset and about seeing things differently yourself. Creativity, like beauty, can be in the eye of the beholder. That was really one of the themes from my Blog on 19 March...


So it's perhaps particularly fitting that this year's Art Exhibition falls in the same week as a team of our Year 9 students take part in the National Final of TeenTech, a competition which encourages young people to creatively explore the use and application of technology, for the third year in succession...

That's thinking creatively...