In November 2020 two of our First Form pupils were interviewed – with librarian Ms Craig – by BBC Radio Somerset for the station’s ‘Story of Somerset’, as told through the county’s traditions and festivals.

Radio presenter Charlie Taylor was interested in a new tradition that Downside started last year as part of National Poetry Day – the Michaelmas Matilda (or the MM for short!). Matilda is a cautionary verse which was written by Hilaire Belloc in 1907. The choice of the poem for the new tradition was not random; Belloc‘s son, Louis (C1915), attended Downside, and his grandson, Dom Philip Jebb, was a Downside monk and Head at the School.

The MM challenges the entire First Form to learn Matilda in just a few weeks and perform it for fellow pupils and staff. Despite the very short preparation time and the wearing of masks, the inaugural event was a great success, enjoyed by performers and their audience alike.

“I think that if you learn some poems that you enjoy when you are younger they will stick with you [through life].” Boudica, Current First Form Day Pupil

“It was fun. It’s a good traditional thing … we should never lie.” Antoni, Current First Form Boarder

Click here to listen to the interview from BBC Radio Somerset.

Click here to see the pupils performing the 2020 Matilda.

Click here to listen to the entire ‘Story of Somerset’ from the BBC.