Summer School 2018 offers health, wealth, lots to make & do, Chris Packham...and some controversy

Written by Tony Millett on .

The prospectus for the 2018 Marlborough College Summer School has been announced - it maintains the four-week format and runs from July 8 to August 4.  There is, as ever, a bonanza of different courses people can take - courses and programmes for all ages from three upwards. 


There are over 500 courses across the four weeks - for instance Week One has 94 different courses, 33 of which are new to Summer School.

Courses for adults are grouped in eight categories: Arts & crafts, Landscape & architecture, Literature & creative writing, History, art history & culture, Music, dance, theatre & film, Science, technology & computing, Body & mind, Life skills, hobbies, country pursuits & sport.

Several of the courses marked as 'New' are timely ones linked to the final year of the First World War centenary (including 1918: a year of two halves - by David du Croz) and the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte's birth.

Some courses come with pretty ambitious titles: Poetry Appreciation: Fourteen Centuries of Poetry and, for the 9-12 age group, Beginners Harp.  Those youngsters - termed 'Young Adventurers' - can also sign on for Young Clayshot at the Barbury Shooting School, Hockey with the College's Will Heywood (who plays national league hockey with Cheltenham Hockey Club), and the ever-popular Circus Skills.

Adults can choose Making Dorset Buttons, Embracing a Paleo Lifestyle (which favours food eaten by our hunter gatherer forebears), or The Life and Work of Picasso.  As for the wealth part of the equation, you could try Picking Winners - An Introduction to Financial Investment (Weeks 1 & 2).

This year Qigong for Health and Vitality (Week 1) will be joined by Qigong for an Active Life (Week 2) - giving two tastes of the Chinese way to improve health and fitness.  There is also a full range of Bridge courses - to suit players at every level as well as beginners.

Familiar Marlborough names taking courses include Janneke Blokland (Modern Physics for Dummies), Gavin James (Back Garden Astronomy: A Practical Guide - following on from his popular book In The Marlborough Night Garden), David du Croz on 1918 and Anne Deuchar's four courses on computing.

Apart from the Young Adventurers age group, there are programmes for Junior Troopers (aged three to six), children's activities for six to nine year olds and a wide range of courses for Teenagers (thirteen to seventeen).  The latter include the Young Chefs' Academy, Fencing for Improvers, Pro-ballers Basketball Camp and plenty of other sports.

Audiences at the Summer School's Gala Performances will get a first view of the College's refurbished Memorial Hall.  

Taking place every Tuesday and Friday of the four weeks, these performances include An Evening with Lord Robert Winston, Illyria's production of Dr Doolittle, Liza Pullman - well known from her time with Fascinating Aida - her six piece band and a programme of Streisand songs, music meets comedy with the Rainer Hersch Orkestra, Blake (a trio of well-known male voices), the Pasadena Rooftop Orchestra (well known for getting feet tapping), perhaps the best known tribute act of all - Killer Queen (founded in 1993)...

...and Chris Packham with his Pictures from the Edge of the World.  The prospectus  describes this as "...not a lecture, it's a romp through the wild mind of Chris Packham."  It is sure to include some controversial remarks about conservation, country sports and plastic waste.

There may too be controversy with three courses given by Christopher Barder.  The first (in Week 2) is titled 100 Years After the Balfour Declaration: Why the West needs Israel.  The description of the course includes some contentious statements:
"The media mostly vilifies Israel in line with many countries vociferous in the UN and religious groups.  Sharp rises in anti-Semitism and recent history should cause all men of good will to question why this should be."

"The centenary of Britain's internationally endorsed approval of the Balfour Declaration demands exploration of what this 'aircraft carrier' of Western values in a sea of troubles provides of benefit, mostly unrecognised except by a few professionals in the field...."

In Week 3 he is presenting a course on The Nature of the Conservative Party: Past and Present ("The subject of this course matters because you are all, socialist or traditionalist, affected by it in one way or another...")

In Week 4 Mr Barder is giving another course: International Relations behind the Media: What is really going on and why?  ("The news, by one means or another, is a constant feature on television and radio.  It makes up newspapers and magazines.  However, as President Trump and others have pointed out, lots of it is untrue or half true....")

Some of Mr Barder's earlier writing on Israel can be found here. has heard some disquiet expressed in the town as to why the Week 2 course has been included as part of the Summer School programme in the terms in which it is presented in the prospectus.

As well as the Gala Performances, there will also be the usual programme of evening lectures and recitals.  Details of these will be on the Summer School website in June.

Courses, accommodation, transport and entertainment can all be booked on the Summer School website - - from 10am on Thursday, January 4.