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The Willink School

The Willink School


Tuesday 15th November and The Corn Exchange in Newbury was the time and place for the West Berkshire  Schools’ Drama Competition where a cast of eleven of our Year 9 students won with a fantastic original piece entitled  “The Rise of Robin’s Radicalisation”.  This annual competition is a Crime Prevention initiative run by Thames Valley Police and West Berkshire Council.  The Willink has a proud history of doing very well in this event but this is the first year we have won; our drama teacher, Mr Rakowski, has written a short account of the journey that has led to this exciting success…

Three years ago was my first taste of this competition. Three years ago was also my first taste of bitter defeat. I should have been happy; we had come second out of all the schools in West Berkshire. There is no doubting that the experience had been invaluable, both for me, and more importantly, for the students involved. But on the long minibus ride back to school, there was something missing. I felt an emptiness that had been brought on by my desire to win. There was always next year.

The next year came. A similar story. The same result. Second again. That sinking feeling. There was always next year.

The third year came. Yet again we had finished 2nd. It was becoming all too familiar. The saying “Always the bridesmaid, and never the bride” had never felt truer. It was undeniable; The Willink School had a fantastic record in this competition. Year on year we had turned out some very talented students, performing some very impressive devised pieces of theatre. However the ultimate prize was always out of reach.

This year, on the theme of Anti-Radicalisation, the students worked tirelessly. I was a harsh task master. I demanded perfection. The students rose to the occasion, rehearsed, took on board feedback, and continued improving toward that goal of perfection.

The concept that the students had come up with was genius. We did not want to point an accusatory finger at any individual, race or group of people, so we created a parody. Having the lead character as Robin Hood made the performance engaging for the audience. He was instantly recognisable. Presenting this controversial content of anti-radicalisation needed some light to juxtapose the darkness. Brecht was the ideal choice for inspiration. In this stylised, non-naturalistic way, we could portray a fun story with moments of comedy, and yet, scratch beneath the surface and the message was loud and clear. The twist at the end, that Robin was just an ordinary school boy who would wear his hood up, had a vivid imagination, a difficult life, and had been radicalised due to his vulnerability, brought home the message.

The judges loved it; there was no doubt in their minds; they had made their verdict. Willink School had won the West Berks Schools’ Drama competition. The students celebrated wildly. A wry smile of accomplishment spread across my face. Job done.

Congratulations to Mr Rakowski and his Band of Merry Year 9s!