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GIFT Easter School 2018, April 1st to 6th, Grendon Hall Northamptonshire, ages 11 to 17

Numbers are limited on this residential course, so we hope to have an intimate week with lots of individual attention. There’s a wide choice of projects on offer, of which you choose one each day. Then there are the usual disarming mix of early- and late-evening activities to enthral you. On the Wednesday, we take a day trip to a mystery location...

Monday Options
Why Things Fall Down

This project explores the development of bridges from the use of tree trunks and creepers to the latest high-technology bridges. You'll build a bridge using programmes that simulate bridges in order to obtain formulae governing their behaviour and you’ll discuss why certain materials can[not] be used for specific structures. If there’s time, you’ll look at the stress and strain experienced in bridges and also extend some of the above ideas into structures using arches. As the saying goes, “Any idiot can build a bridge that stands up, but only an engineer can build a bridge that only just stands up.”

Dead Parrots’ Society

No matter how different comedy sketch shows are, certain types of sketch come back again and again: the sane person in a mad world, the mad person in a crazy world, misunderstandings, repeated patterns, and characters the audience can't wait to see again. Lift the lid on what makes a sketch funny, and write and/or perform your own through imitation, improv and imagination.


Experts agree that super-human robot intelligence is likely to be developed in the next 50 years - and probably a lot sooner. Computers capable of artificial intelligence, which can learn for themselves, are already among us. What will change about our lives? What can we do now to make sure the emerging artificial intelligence helps us live better lives?

Tuesday Options
Take a Look at Yourself

Every time we interact with someone we send them hidden messages which may tell them more than what we say or the words we write. Find out what some of these signals mean. Can we use them to analyse people and can we hide our true selves from others? Please bring a sample of an adult's handwriting.

The Illusion of Life

Long before moving images, cave painters depicted horses with multiple legs to convey the illusion of motion. Animation allows film makers to bring objects and characters to life by photographing or drawing objects one frame at a time. We will investigate some of the techniques and processes available to animators such as stop-motion capture, green screen and pixilation, with the aim of making short films. Please bring a digital camera or mobile phone, and a Windows PC laptop which is essential due to the software we provide.

But Oh! That Deep Romantic Chasm

A day with Romantic poets isn’t as romantic as it sounds - there’s only ONE way to appreciate Nature according to Dorothy Wordsworth, and it involves a lot of mud....To understand the ideology which informed English Romanticism, we will worship the picturesque, dissect our feelings, boast of our genius, cry a lot and possibly fight some duels. Oh yes, and write some quite brilliant poetry. Ah! (Wellingtons are a good idea for this project....well, I did mention mud, didn’t I?)

Improvised Shakespeare

You might think mixing improvised theatre with Shakespeare would make things doubly difficult; but there's something about the bold characters, exuberant language and plots with disguise, death and discovery that makes improvising easier. Enjoy a day of mad metaphors, soulful soliloquies and drawn-out death scenes, all made up at the drop of a coxcomb.

Thursday Options
The Shakespeare Conspiracy

In 1999 Radio 4 listeners voted William Shakespeare ‘Man of the Millennium’. Yet, historically speaking, less is known about Shakespeare than almost any other playwright of his time. The controversy as to the true authorship of the ‘Shakespeare plays’ is of course well-known but the life of Shakespeare the Man is full of enigmas and mystery itself. Did he even exist at all? This investigation aims to remove this cloak of secrecy and solve the mysteries of William Shakespeare’s life. From historical records we shall discover vital new evidence of another, more sinister conspiracy in which Shakespeare was embroiled... “There are more things in heaven and earth...”

Designing an Evilometer

Is it better for a thin man in a lifeboat to give up his seat, or to throw a fat man overboard to make room for two? Is letting someone fall down an open lift shaft any different to giving him a gentle shove? Grapple with these ethical dilemmas, create your own and see how your own current philosophies cope with them. Create your own juicy questions and vote for one to tackle as the ultimate challenge to your combined philosophical powers. Philosophy. Not for the squeamish.

Fair Maids and Foul Fiends

Experience the tension and trauma of the Victorians’ favourite theatre. You will be cunning villains, silly sidekicks, heroes and heroines. We’ll meet the characters, write the lines, and act out the scenes with heavy sighs, tearful farewells, and swashbuckling bellows. Spend a day immersed in the wonderful spectacle of Victorian melodrama, a form of theatre that is closely linked with pantomime and twice as much fun! We’ll make a (melo)drama out of a crisis! (this course is back by popular demand)

Friday Options
The Time Traveller’s Paradox

Time has been used to qualify and quantify every process known to humankind. The earliest recorded measurement of true time began with Palæolithic humans 37,000 years B.C.; the Sumerians in the third millennium B.C. favoured the sexagesimal system used throughout the world today. In 1943 René Barjavel explored the Time Traveller’s Paradox: if one assassinates one's grandfather, before one's father has been conceived, what would happen? We investigate the historical, mathematical and astronomical definitions of time and, with an understanding of the nature of wormholes and an examination of the feasibility of time travel, wonder at how science fiction may become science fact.

Worlds Apart

From the Lord of the Rings to Star Trek to Game of Thrones, authors and film-makers have created weird and wonderful alternative worlds and filled them with people and creatures that still somehow hold a mirror to ourselves. Imagine your dream world! Draw it! Then think about the people who live there. How they live, what they do for fun, their culture, religion, education, language, sports. Tolkien spent decades creating Middle Earth - start yours in a day!

The Battle of Isandhlwana

Your name is Colonel Hassard, and you are chairing the Court of Inquiry into the British military disaster at Isandhlwana, which took place in Zululand in 1879. You are presented with all the available first-hand evidence and must find (i) a scapegoat on whom the disaster can be blamed and (ii) the reasons why the disaster occurred and how 1950 British troops were annihilated. This is a day of primary sources and honing those historical analytic skills.

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