The Hull Vigil

So Mark Selby is the new world champion! I have always enjoyed snooker although I could never understand why my grandmother was so absorbed in a game that she watched in black and white. She claimed to be able to distinguish between the different coloured balls but I remain somewhat sceptical. Often dismissed as a pub sport, snooker requires technical brilliance and strategic acumen. There is something epic about watching two players bare their souls and battle it out on the green baize. Each click of the cue hitting the ball is filled with opportunity, hope and, when luck is not on your side, the possibility of redemption. Snooker is perhaps a metaphor for life. I have a similar fascination with darts which was perhaps fueled by reading Martin Amis’ novel ‘London Fields’ when I was in my early twenties. The novel is great though the 2018 film is dreadful beyond belief. I have often thought that darts is an essentially noble sport that has lacked the excitement and unpredictability of Formula One racing ever since players were banned from drinking their way through matches. Whilst not associated with acts of great athleticism, its pure simplicity perhaps heightens its intensity.    

It was the great Sid Waddell who first perceived that darts could be a mass entertainment sports. The son of a Northumberland miner, he won a scholarship to read history at St John’s College Cambridge. After a few years in academia, he started working in television and produced three series of a children’s adventure series called ‘The Flaxton Boys’ in the early seventies. He is remembered as the ‘‘the voice of darts’ and though he branched out into wrestling and pool, it is for darts that he is remembered. Ultimately he saw something noble, exciting and engaging in something which was so often dismissed as trivial. His great genius was to discern the majestic in the mundane.

Anyway, enough about darts. The real point why I was reflecting upon snooker was because the World Championship Final this week was played out in front of a full crowd in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. After fourteen long months, spectators have been allowed back to an indoors sporting event. Last week, there was a rave in Liverpool hosted by Fatboy Slim and whilst that would not necessarily have been my personal cup of tea, I would certainly have loved to have been present to witness  Mark Selby lift the trophy aloft last night. These moments, whether a rave or a snooker match are loaded with significance insomuch as they represent our first tentative steps back to a familiar world – one punctuated by sporting events, parties, concerts, travel and much more besides. With 65% of the adult population in the UK vaccinated, we  can begin to dream of a life less bound by restrictions. Here at School, I hope that we will be able to bring back town leave and welcome day pupils back into boarding houses immediately following half term. Perhaps such measures lack the heady excitement of a world championship final but for us and for our children, it is desperately important that we have the courage to take these steps. Speech Day will happen this year and there will be a Leavers’ Ball. Life is gradually returning but who knew that this would be heralded by a snooker match in Sheffield or a rave in Liverpool? 

Finally, I find myself drawn to a work of art in one of the UK’s most underrated cities; Hull. It is an empty box which has been placed on top of a building. Over the course of one year 730 members of the public will be invited to spend a single hour alone in the box. The Vigil will run through the hours of sunrise and sunset.  It is perhaps a reminder, in these times, that all things will eventually pass. 

Hull has a rich cultural heritage and its latest installation might seem something of an indulgence, yet sitting above the city, it is a reminder to all those living within the city that there is an intrinsic value in contemplation and reflection and that this is more important now than ever before. The sun will always rise in the morning and set in the evening. The knowledge that things will, ultimately, be alright and that we will recover from this global pandemic is perhaps embodied by silent figures staring out upon the horizon from a box balanced on top of a building in Hull; just as our hopes and fears might be embodied in the tip of a dart of the reassuring sight of a ball dropping quietly into a pocket. 

For us as a School, we now need to define ourselves in a post pandemic world and ensure that the future of this wonderful community is enriched by all that we have learned and accomplished during these past fourteen months. The challenge is for us to ensure that we continuously  improve over time. 

Have a fantastic weekend and I hope that you get an opportunity to enjoy the return of something you hold dear; whether it is the opportunity to meet loved ones or the prospect of attending a much-anticipated sporting event!