‘Alma Maters’

03/10/2023 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Alma Maters …’ by Ms Paige Turner
In one weekend I was invited to three of my four alma maters from which I graduated and hath flourished. The first was the Ark Oval Primary School – or as I knew it – Oval Road Primary – last Friday for their 150th Anniversary. The second was the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – or simply ‘Central’ as we knew it – on Saturday. And lastly the University of Cambridge – on Sunday.
Such institutions encourage financial donations – and why not? Ark Oval sits in Oval Road, Croydon – a mere javelin-throw or so from Croydon High Street where tragically a fifteen-year-old Old Palace pupil was knifed to death. It’s a deprived area and after speaking to two assemblies of pupils in a sea of maroon uniforms – which has not changed in sixty years – I took a tour of where I grew up and was reminded of how far I had come. To …
‘Central’ which – apart from celebrating Professor Sally Mackey’s retirement – a former Head of Applied Theatre and Education – was fund raising for students having difficulty in financially support themselves in our capital city. The Embassy Theatre was jam-packed and I watched a film of our beloved Studio 1 – where I rehearsed and learnt and flourished – being demolished to make way for a new future studio. Hundreds of A4 sheets of paper – with memories of hours spent in that venue descended upon the to-be-built studio’s foundation as a time capsule. I reminded myself that I had emailed in some words and at that moment, Professor Sally Mackey asked if Jan Moran Neil was present. She read out the sonnet I had written in 2016 when the demolition took place. Here it is:
Bedrock by Jan Moran Neil (nee Titterington) T 72- T 76
after James Elroy Flecker and for Studio 1.

Future students of our sweet English tongue,
beneath this bedrock sit our foreign words.
We once danced above, sang, gave breath, were young,
spoke sonnets, supped, flew with Pinter’s old birds.
Unknown fleeting footfalls now it’s your turn.
We can only guess at your far-flung lives;
embed worded messengers in this earth
and send to you these underpinned archives.
Dig deep. For what is central to your art?
A core, a base, solid unweathered rock,
backbone, root, foundation, pulse, beating heart,
a place to return when all runs amok.
But hey, like us, laugh, sleep rough on barley wine.
Hello from the back syllables of time.
Sally Mackey is filmed reading the sonnet at the end of this link on You Tube.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I was and hope that the time capsule will be opened in 150 years to come. A third reminder to me as to how far I have come and that it’s not where you are in life but how far has been your journey. And that journey begins at a parental knee – hence our ‘alma maters’.
My covid jab took place on the Thursday so I’m afraid I didn’t have the energy to get to Cambridge on the Sunday.
If any past Oval Road students would like to donate then here’s the email address.

Ark Oval Primary Academy 150th Anniversary fundraising campaign – JustGiving

If any past Central students would like to donate then go to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama website and the Sally Mackey Bursary Fund and you can donate here: donate online 
And if you would like to purchase the Amazon audio of my poetry collection ‘Red Lipstick and Revelations’ for £5.59 then this is the link: Red Lipstick and Revelations

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