Saturday 4 July 2020 had been circled on the calendar for students and staff at QM for months...
It was supposed to be the School’s annual Speech Day, the day when the entire School community would don their finery for a prestigious prize giving ceremony which in previous years has attracted speakers including Mary Berry CBE and The Rt Hon Amber Rudd. It was supposed to be the day when the Upper Sixth leavers received their QM Red Ribbon, a symbol which marks the end of their journey through the School.
However, the coronavirus outbreak put a firm halt to the usual proceedings and forced QM to take a different view on how to celebrate this year. Given the success the School has had introducing its online learning platform – QM Connect – when girls had to return home and study remotely, it only made sense for the celebrations to be moved online and held virtually.
And it is safe to say that despite being a different type of event, this year’s celebrations did not disappoint. Families still carefully selected their outfits for the day, poured a glass of something chilled and prepared baskets full of picnic nibbles, just as they would have done had they been celebrating at School, but all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The entire QM community came together to mark the end of a truly extraordinary year and there was not a dry eye in the house as the closing credits rolled.
The ceremony was opened with speeches from Head, Sue Baillie, and Chairman of Governors, Caroline Bayliss. Chaplain, Robert Owen, gave a very moving service from St Margaret’s Chapel – a key part of any QM Speech Day – which would not have been complete without this wonderful rendition of Lift Thine Eyes from the Chamber Choir…
As is tradition, there was even an art exhibition. We heard “What QM Means to Me” from girls in all years who movingly quoted “sisterhood”, “a huge range of opportunities” and “the possibility to be whoever or whatever you want to be”.
We heard from incoming Head Girl for the 2020/21 academic year, Sophie Standen, who recapped some of the sporting, musical and enrichment highlights of the year. Of course, we also heard from outgoing Head Girl, Harriet Brown, who is saving her official speech for when we can finally all get together and have a more typical Speech Day gathering to reflect on the year.
Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of Speech Day: A Different View was the UVI leaver’s ‘tuneful’ version of the School hymn! There was of course a prize giving ceremony, reminding us of the numerous academic successes we’ve seen in such a challenging year. We heard from OMA Chairman, Adrienne Owen, and finally St Aidan’s were announced as House Cup winners for another year.
The moment which literally gave us ‘A Different View’ was a most spectacular video from award-winning CAA Authorised Drone Pilot, Charlotte Graham, who has captured some wonderful aerial footage of QM’s beloved setting in Escrick Park.
Head, Sue Baillie, commented “Our Speech Day celebrations play a key role in bringing the QM Family together and in the transition from School to university that our Upper Sixth leavers are about to make. Having to postpone this year’s event was a huge disappointment to us all, and whilst we will host a ceremony at QM as soon as we are safely able to, I am still so pleased we were able to treat guests to an alternative event this year, one with a truly different view!”
Mrs Baillie signed off the remarkable occasion with an emotional farewell to our UVI leavers. She told them;
“Be brave, be fabulous, but most of all, be you”.
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