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Easter School at Grittleton House

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...


Here are the course options for you to choose from - you'll need a first and second choice for each day. 

Improv Games (Monday)

Over decades improvisers have developed hundreds of theatrical games. They provide shortcuts to comedy that enable anyone who is willing to have fun to be funny. We'll play dozens of different improvisation games, and create a few new ones on the way. Fast and curious, lots of laughs but also a great way to be fearless in front of others.


Whale-juice and Moonshine (Monday)

To begin at the beginning… in Dylan Thomas’ radio play, ‘Under Milk Wood’ is a feast for the ears. Members of his dystopian village, Llareggub, explore themes from love and time to death and the sheer exuberance of life. Thomas does not portray characters in the usual ways used in literature but in such a beautifully melodic snapshot of their lives, dreams and memories that as you listen to time passing, your mind will become a fishingboat bobbing sea of reflections. Then create and record your own radio plays, weaving in and out of the houses and minds of the inhabitants of somewhere in your imagination. 

By Jupiter! (Monday)

Jostling with the vast population of Ancient Rome were dozens of gods, each with their attendant priests and mysteries. That’s before adding to the mix foreign deities brought to the city by its cosmopolitan population, the emergence of Christianity and a succession of emperors joining the ranks of the gods themselves. In this course, explore the role religion played in Roman life, from art to politics to war to literature, and speculate on what Juno, Mars, Neptune and the others have been getting up to in their retirement.


From Infinity and Beyond (Monday)

To study astronomy before 1931 meant to study the objects visible in the night sky with the naked eye or optical telescopes. At that time, no-one knew that radio frequency (RF) radiation is emitted by billions of extra-terrestrial sources, and that some of these reach the Earth’s surface. Karl G. Jansky, a radio engineer, was studying radio frequency interference generated from thunderstorms, when he identified a radio signal, he called it “a steady hiss-type static of unknown origin”. In 1933 he published his findings: the source of the radio waves was the Milky Way. At first his work was neglected, but in 1937 Grote Reber came upon Jansky’s discoveries and built the prototype for the modern day radio telescope. Radio astronomy was born. The Sun and Jupiter are the most active radio sources in our solar system. We shall build a simple radio telescope and attempt to identify the sound of Jupiter's radio waves crashing on to the Earth! 

Hail, herald of the Greeks! (Tuesday)

Classical Greek Theatre is recorded from the 5th Century BC. It’s a testament to how excellent this genre is that it has lasted over two millennia. We will explore how the chorus and associated mask work, (acting and making) is the pivotal role in Greek Theatre. Working as a chorus is the ultimate acting experience requiring excellent scripts and precision unison acting. Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus and Aristophanes were masters of this theatre and there were annual competitions to see who was the most accomplished.  Romp through comedies, weep through tragedies, write and star in your own Greek Drama Competition.  


Body Building (Tuesday)

Is the heart the best form of apparatus for pumping blood round the body? Are the lungs the best respiration system? Is the skeleton the best protective framework? Can you emulate Mother Nature? Are there wrong turns in biology that could be improved upon? You will design and build an organism from first principles using everyday materials. Access to reference sources and discussion will determine the nature of your design. 


What Did the Romans Ever Do for Art? (Tuesday)

From the streets of Pompeii to the homes of the rich and powerful, Roman civilization was rich in meaningful images. As the Republic and Empire rose and fell, their art changed too. Put creativity, contemplation and history together in this intriguing mosaic of a day that looks at art through the lens of history and vice versa, and tries your hand at some Roman-style image-making 


Knots and Not-Knots (Tuesday)

Historical, spiritual and mathematical definitions have all been used in an attempt to define that which is a loop in free-space without self-intersections. Simple or complex manipulation of natural vegetation to form rope, used initially for the purpose of binding and latterly decoration, has occupied humankind for thousands of years. In an attempt to better understand nature, scientists and mathematicians began finding applications of knot theory to help solve problems in biology and chemistry, such as the folding of proteins and enzyme interactions. Our everyday language is littered with references to the use of knots: ‘learn the ropes’, ‘let the cat out of the bag’ are just two examples. 

We will attempt our own definition of what is a knot, an ‘un-knot’, and a tangle. Investigate knot theory, and tie as many as possible of the 4,000 known knots and, who knows - even a knot not known to knotting? 

The Evergeen Blues (Thursday)

The Blues is a musical form which it is thought developed in the southern USA where African forms of music met European folk song. It is the direct ancestor of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and its musical DNA runs through to present day pop. At the heart of The Blues are a twelve-bar cycle, usually centred on the three major chords of a given key and a familiar rhyme structure of verses. One of the reasons The Blues always remains popular is that this basic structure makes it possible for musicians who have not previously played together to meet and play immediately, whatever their level of skill, and to set up a musical dialogue. That’s what we’ll do - so bring your instruments!


A Victim of British Justice?  (Thursday)

Derek Bentley was hanged on the 28th January 1953 at the age of 19 and the words in the project title appear on his gravestone. There were several questionable aspects to the jury trial and the case against him. Derek Bentley’s sister campaigned tirelessly for years before finally clearing his name in 1998. We’ll look at the circumstances of the case and the legal situation at the time, and draw our own conclusions. Innocent or guilty? 


A Dig Through Archaeology  (Thursday)

Archaeology has a fascinating history of its own. Different theories of how archaeology should be done come in and out of fashion. It’s a tug-of-war between those historians who focus on the human element, and those who think scientific techniques are what unlock the past. In the morning, you’ll look at three key excavations that each used a different approach. In the afternoon, you’ll design your own theoretical approaches and defend them, breaking new earth metaphorically, even though the mattocks are staying in the cupboard for this year!


Playing the Fool (Thursday)

The gift of laughter can be incredibly powerful but humour is always personal. This course will use the physical theatre tools of clowning, commedia dell’arte and puppetry to crack the comedy code. Expect no oversized shoes or red wigs. Do not worry if you do not see yourself as a funny person – it’s not about wisecracks. Bring with you an open heart and a small object of your choosing.  

Everything Is Alive (Friday)

What would your hair say about you today? How might a block of Cathedral City Cheddar think about its existence? This course is about developing depth of character and story arcs through exploring a different narrative – that of an object. Avoiding clichés and putting a refreshing spin on the writer’s axiom, “show don’t tell”, we will move through a range of writing activities to get those imaginative juices flowing. The end result will be unique story writing which could be from any perspective from Winston Churchill’s false teeth to a divorcée’s wedding ring.


Anarchy in the UK (Friday)

“Anarchist” is often a term of insult that brings up images of mindless mayhem. However, taken literally, it means, “without a chief”, and over the centuries many experiments in living cooperatively have challenged mainstream society. “I can tell you that neither your political boss nor your employer, neither the capitalist nor the policeman will speak to you honestly about Anarchism,” warns Alexander Berkman. Explore the options beyond capitalism and the control of the State. 


Rocketry (Friday)

Wernher von Braun and Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, pioneers of the American and Russian space programmes respectively, both started by experimenting in their back gardens with toy rockets that they’d made when they were very young. That’s how far they went. How far can you go? 


Smoke and Mirrors, Flags and Flashes, Dots and Dashes  (Friday)

Plumes of smoke, fire signals, flags, and flashes are all forms of optical telegraphy: messages from afar. In 1791 Claude Chappe developed the first practical, modern, mechanical optical telegraph which was capable of speeds in excess of 310 miles/500 km per hour. All these means of communication make use of code language, SLANG (secret language), and intermediate stations to transmit information across large distances. Rear-Admiral Sir Home Popham was the author of the signal flag code which was adopted by the Admiralty in 1803, most famously used for the signal “England expects that every man will do his duty”. Explore the history of telegraphy from 300 B.C. to date. Make a code and send a signal via smoke and mirrors, flags and flashes, dots and dashes....


Venue & Staff
Grittleton House dates back to 1660, with later additions completed in 1853. We’ll be staying in the Stables and Tower buildings. You’ll be staying in a room of four to six people of the same gender and about the same age. All rooms are ensuite except for a few which each have their own dedicated bathroom.

The staff at Grittleton House are used to dealing with all sorts of dietary requirements. All our staff are DBS checked. They are chosen because they have a passion for interesting topics that aren’t normally on the curriculum, and because they have the right approach to work with keen, curious students in a more informal setting. Some are qualified teachers, and others are bringing their expertise from professional or academic settings.


Booking and Price


All tuition, accommodation, meals, materials and evening activities are included in the price of £549*. A deposit of £80 secures your place. This can be paid online, via bank transfer, Paypal or even a cheque. A sibling discount of £100 for the second child attending the same event from the same family is available. 

*GIFT is very fortunate in having the long-term support of a couple of charities that can provide bursaries to cover part of the cost of attending for families who would otherwise be unable to send their child. Please contact us for more information.


Overseas Students

We welcome bright, enthusiastic students from overseas. You do need to have very good English language skills as well as being the sort of bright, curious young person who enjoys this way of working, but GIFTers are a very welcoming community and will be delighted that you are here.  


GIFT Easter School 2020
April 5th to 10th
Grittleton House, Wiltshire
Yr7s to Yr13s
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