Happy Birthday Flora!
Tuesday 30th October 2018 would have been Flora Stevenson’s 179th birthday. Flora was a social reformer and suffragist with a special interest in education. She played an active role in EVOC’s predecessor organisation, the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor.
The EVOC 150 team chose to mark Flora’s birthday in the only appropriate way, with a party! But not just any party. We were absolutely delighted to work with the Flora Stevenson Primary School to deliver a day-long Victorian-themed birthday bonanza involving all staff, pupils and the parents council, a mere 700-odd individuals. Three cheers to everyone involved!
Recipe for Success
I am incredibly proud of what we managed to achieve in just over five weeks and extra special thanks must go to Sharon McGhee and Amanda Burton, headteacher and depute headteacher respectively at Flora’s for their approachability, creativity and enthusiasm.
Our mutual aims were to honour the legacy of Flora; raise awareness of, learn about and encourage volunteerism and social action; promote the EVOC 150 project, and have fun! With just three short planning meetings squeezed in amongst packed schedules we went from the initial germ of an idea to a mammoth event. It was a lesson for me in how much is possible with limited resources and a (very) moderate budget topped with a healthy serving of belief.
The Big Day
From our initial meeting the school were determined to find a way of including the families of pupils as well. The day started with a mini volunteer fayre in the Hall of Happiness accompanied by a performance by The Music School. I had thoroughly underestimated how good the exceptionally talented musicians would be and should never have based my preconceptions on my own primary school recorder group!
GirlGuiding Edinburgh, Health in Mind, Edinburgh Leisure (Ageing Well), The Yard, Cyrenians and The Rock Trust promoted their organisations and volunteering opportunities to families in a packed hall.
Christy Thomson from The Yard said: “I loved coming and thought it was really nice to be a part of the day…I think [it] was really useful”. It was fantastic to see so many people come in and we were grateful to have the support of Cllr Hal Osler who joined us for the whole morning.
With a swiftly executed five-minute turnaround the hall was transformed into party central. Thanks to an exceptional feat of organisation which would put many professional logistics experts to shame, over the course of the next six hours we rotated all children by year group in and out of the hall.
Once inside the children learnt why the school and EVOC had collaborated for Flora’s birthday, played traditional Victorian games including pass the slipper (plimsole) and Blind Man’s Buff and learnt about what life would have been like during Flora’s time with the help of handling boxes from the Outreach Service at Museums and Galleries Edinburgh.
Happy Birthday Flora was sung loud and proud and once the vocal cords were warm Daisy Bell was also recited. I’m pretty sure it’s going to take between 150 and 179 years for me to get the latter out of my head. Finally, no party is complete without appropriate sustenance. The parent council completed an epic baking mission to provide mountains of Victoria Sponge cakes and Morrisons Ferry Road kindly donated so we could hydrate the children with lashings of lemonade. Many thanks to Yasmin and Alea from EVOC; Tricia, EVOC 150 volunteer and Hal for managing an industrial-sized production line of all of the above treats.
Back in class away from the frivolities in the hall, all children created birthday cards for Flora and included a pledge to volunteer or be of service in some other way as a way of honouring Flora’s legacy. All staff and students had either chosen to dress-up as Victorians to signify the past, or come in their uniform to signify the present. I wonder what schools will look like 179 years from now?
This day would not have been the stand-out success it was without the help and enthusiasm of all those mentioned above and more. We are able to celebrate EVOC’s 150th year with events like this with thanks to lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hip Hip Hooray!