A fantastic and inspirational new centre for performing arts, sports training and an 800 seat assembly hall with full AV capability opens at Seaford.
Last Friday evening 3rd November 2017 several hundred guests, made up of Old Seafordians, parents, ex-parents, staff and pupils attended the official opening of The Johnson Centre. This is the new hub for performing arts and sports as well as being the home of the new hall, which is capable of seating up to 800 people. Head John Green opened proceedings with his address about the continuing support/ethos at Seaford for its pupils and community, the approach to achieve personal bests over A*'s and to confirm the latest numbers of Seaford College and Prep attending pupils, now 758. Roughly speaking, that's a 100 pupil advancement over the past 4 years, so it's good to see the upward growth pattern overseen by Toby Mullins from 1995-2013 continuing in healthy fashion with John and his team.
The new impressively designed and finished building became reality after the governors worked with the school and the planners locally to allow the old pool by the Mansion House to be refurbished and covered. This alleviated the need to provide a large covered swimming pool on the new site to the west of Lavington Park. Although some questioned why the existing 2008 plan was not carried through, the re-planning of that space has transformed the area into a busy and social hub for performers. Over a glass of good wine and lovely canapés, Vice Head' James Passam told us that during off-school hours, the centre was abuzz and he saw every room packed with hard-working Seafordians practicing and learning on the climbing wall, in the dance studio, in the gyms and within the musical arena. In contrast to the original plan for a large covered pool that would have benefitted only a small number of Seafordians, the new Johnson Centre benefits every one of the pupils James told us.
Su Sayer (nee Johnson) on stage congratulated the Seaford team after accepting the honour of the Centre being named after her family.
Gareth Neame OBE, Golden Globe winner, Old Seafordian of the early 1980's and executive producer of Downton Abbey, gave a captivating speech with amusing anecdotes from his time at the College. The speech included recollections of the Johnsons and how Seaford was ‘the making of him’ and many of his fellow OS. He recalled Charles Johnson's humour in telling him that he proposed to his wife Joscelyn (also a teacher at Seaford) during half time at an important hockey match! Charles had also recounted how he had achieved the fastest 100 yard sprint recorded at Seaford, in the early 1930's, a record never to be beaten. Charles would have his record reprinted on the sports day programme every year up to his parting in '90 because the 100 yards changed to a metric 100 meters so, in theory, no one could ever beat his record due to the metric system!
The Johnson Centre was blessed by Canon Mark Gilbert.
The crowd was entertained by Seafordian performers introduced by Sara Reynolds, Director of Performing Arts at Seaford with arias', dance, acting set and musical performance. The guests watched on a large video screen above the stage an excellent rendition of George Michael’s ‘One More Try’ by Yolanda Gumpo recorded over the summer.
Guests were finally entertained by a thrilling fireworks display before departing to reach whatever other engagements were planned later that evening at home!
The centre has already created momentum for Seaford College and SoOS would like to congratulate the whole team along with ex-members of staff who helped the plans develop, for delivering this wonderful project. A special 'thank you' goes to Antony Cook, who we caught up with. Anthony recently departed Seaford and his post of Director of Sport, he has been instrumental in overseeing, with the support of The Headmasters and staff, a period of successful sports development specifically over hockey and rugby where several international players have been born from the playing fields at Seaford.
The Society trusts the investments at the school will continue to support changing and evermore challenging demands on private education in the years to come.
Next up: Hollingbourne Centre conversion to a major library and study area… watch this space !
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