An unexpected lockdown feast
The staging of this most eccentric of school prize competitions, which dates back in one form or another to the late 1970s in honour of the legendary Frank McEachran -- ‘Kek’ to his pupils, ‘Mac’ to the staff -- looked impracticable in this year’s intermittently remote conditions. Thanks, however, to the intellectual endeavours of Salopians, the English Faculty’s determination, and skills of Film Fellow David Clifford, the competition not only took place ‘in remote’ but has arguably reached a new standard.
The nature and genesis of the McEachran Competition is explained at the start of the film by this year’s adjudicator, recently retired Churchill’s Housemaster and former member of the English Faculty, Richard Hudson. Richard ran the competition for most of his 17 years at Shrewsbury, taking over the torch from the late Mike Schutzer-Weissmann, and this year passing it on to Lauren Temple. As the emphasis on cross-curricular learning has increased, so have the always vague ‘Mornington Crescent’ type rules of the competition become deliberately vaguer. But the essence has remained the same: to deliver a brief talk, based on any aspect of a short text (‘the spell’, to use the McEachran terminology) which will interest the audience, be intellectually coherent and show originality. Unlike in so much of today’s world, substance takes precedence over presentation.
The talks given by this year’s eleven talented competitors fulfilled these requirements par excellence, and there is something for everyone in the speeches. The topics from the Fifth Form range from racial diversity as a human construct (Sapna C, G); the relationship between ambition and happiness (Siena G, M); hope for the future (Eva H, G); persecution of minorities (Jack S, R); and diversity and the media (Mia W, G). The Sixth Form explore concepts from materialism and the cycle of desire (Theo P, PH); a disturbingly modern concern reflected in Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Alice S, M); man in opposition to nature (Ed B, Rt); the contribution to the richness of language made by syntactical ambiguity (Joe M, SH); Galileo’s influence upon Milton (Kira W, M); and a celebration of nature liberated by lockdown (Orlando W, Rt). This impressive group of Salopians have skilfully captured everything the McEachran Competition should be.
A link has been sent to all pupils to watch the competition and see who has won this year’s McEachran Prize!