The English Department enjoyed an action-packed trip to New York in the first week of the half-term holiday, taking in a range of literary and cultural sights in one of the world’s most exciting cities. To further their understanding of American literature and its cultural contexts, students visited the New York Public Library, watched “Purlie Victorious” on Broadway – and met the cast afterwards – took in the views from the Brooklyn Bridge, followed the trail of the beat poets in Greenwich Village and visited a host of literary locations, including those that inspired classic works such as “The Great Gatsby” and “Revolutionary Road”. They also reflected on the stories of the millions of immigrants who moved to the city in pursuit of the American Dream, especially during visits to Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum, as well as learning about the aftermath and consequences of 9/11. 

Alongside literature, students enjoyed everything else New York had to offer, including an atmospheric night-time harbour tour and spending time in the autumnal beauty of Central Park – four days of blazing sunshine helped show off the city at its best! Watching the New York Rangers play ice hockey at Madison Square Garden was a sensory onslaught, as was the “crossroads of the world”, Times Square, while the range of American cuisine and shopping opportunities were also gratefully received. 

With so much to take in, students were encouraged to write down their thoughts and feelings throughout the week in the journals provided to them, not only to allow for greater reflection on New York the city, but also to keep a lifelong memento of what was hopefully an enjoyable and inspiring trip. 

Lower Sixth student Mia McAllen says, “Stepping into the chaotic, often overwhelming but exciting city of New York, accompanied by our friends, was an uplifting experience, which I will remember for years to come.  

“As a way to enhance our interest in literature, we were given an extracts booklet, which contained poems, parts of stories and news articles relevant to the places we visited whilst in New York, such as the Statue of Liberty or Central Park. Whilst stopping to reflect, read an extract and write in our journals, we were able to connect the contents of what we read with one another and with our surroundings. This gave us the opportunity to feel inspired by writers of the past. I also really enjoyed the cultural aspects of the trip, such as our visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was struck by the way art remains a constant, that both changes and differs, across time and cultures, as a way of connection and expression.”   

Upper Sixth Barney Sayburn says,Witnessing theatre culture in New York was fascinating. A culture of audience enthusiasm on Broadway replaces any air of elitism and classism that occasionally sours some London theatre. Watching Purlie Victorious, a comedy about the struggles of black people in 1961 Georgia, was both joyous and thought provoking, telling its story with a distinctly American pride for freedom and justice. Those of us who hung around at the stage door after got to show our appreciation directly to the cast, notably including Leslie Odom Jr. (of Hamilton fame) – who plays Purlie – with whom we got a group photo.  

“I also loved participating in the Creative Response competition. I produced a poem about the atmosphere of newness and campaign-like patriotism in the city, while Tom Baker’s very personal winning entry: the poem ‘These Streets’ discussed the overwhelming experience of the trip: the tiredness, the bonding you do with your friends, the thrill of being in a place so grand and new yet so familiar too. Others produced sketches from the journals we were provided, or photos they’d taken – Mia McAllen’s stunning picture of the New York skyline at night captures the awe from our Tuesday boat trip. Safe to say: we all got a lot out of the experience.  

“Overall, while I have never felt so tired as I did some days and I would advise the West Side YMCA to improve their shower system(!), I had an excellent time on the trip, and I very much hope to return to the city again.” 

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