My theme this morning was chocolate. Apparently, we've lost our collective appetite for Easter Eggs. I don’t know why, but our usual enthusiasm for chocolate at this time of year has diminished. Whilst I’ll be doing my very best to redress this over the next two weeks it does - like so much of life at the moment - seem slightly surreal. One of my favourite films from my childhood years was the adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - not the 2005 Johnny Depp offering, which I thought was awful - but the Gene Wilder film of 1971. The meanderings of Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike TV and Augustus Gloop as they made their way around the magical world of Willy Wonka fascinated me, as did the Oompa Lumpas who worked there. I encouraged the pupils to add it to their viewing list for the Easter holidays or, better still, to read the Roald Dahl book on which it's based.
But what about the history of chocolate in this country? For many years, the chocolate business in Britain was virtually monopolised by four companies - Cadbury of Birmingham, Fry's of Bristol and Rowntree's and Terrys, both of whom were based in York. Cadbury launched their first chocolate bars in 1849, and this year marks the 91st birthday of one of their most famous products – the Crunchie. The point I made this morning is that all four companies were run by Quaker families. As you're probably aware, Quakerism is a denomination of Christianity whose followers reject violence and promote values such as building consensus, social justice and the power of silence. When these four companies were established, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, England was experiencing much social and economic dislocation as the country moved through the industrial revolution. Farm workers were migrating to work in factories in cities that were growing rapidly, and many of them were living in slum dwellings and real poverty. It was also safer to drink alcohol than the polluted water, and consequently, alcoholism was raging throughout society. So, the Quakers developed cocoa, a sweet-tasting drink that was nutritious and safe, because it needed boiled water. By doing so, companies such as Cadbury's and Fry's provided a safe and delicious alternative to the gin and beer on the one hand, and polluted water on the other. From this small product, a new working class culture developed. They also helped develop a business model that offered an alternative to most at that time. They had a reputation for honesty and reliability, and they looked after their workers: Cadbury built the village of Bournville, complete with schools, leisure facilities and parks, and was one of the first employers to make pension provision and provide a canteen for workers. Of course, they also knew that a healthy workforce was a productive workforce, so they employed doctors and dentists to look after them. Many of the most enlightened ideas of the Victorian times developed in Quaker businesses and companies. As we tuck into our Easter Eggs - no doubt well-earned on the back of yet another Joe Wicks Workout - I think it’s worth thinking a little more about the values of Quakerism.
I'd like to end by thanking all our staff, pupils and parents for helping us make our remote learning programme such a success. Despite the enforced closure of the site, the School has very much remained open. Very few, if any, members of the Brentwood School family over the centuries, could have imagined the current provision we're able to make to ensure that the pupils' learning has been largely uninterrupted by these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances: we are proud of what has been achieved and we're confident that our provision is the best-in-class. We will, after a well-earned rest, continue to improve it as we head into next term and if you have any suggestions as to how we might do so, please don't hesitate to get in touch via the usual channels.
Thank you again for your support, and have a safe, healthy and Happy Easter.