Of all the months of the year, February is perhaps the least likely to stir the heart. Whilst autumn months are famously the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and summer’s charms have long been trumpeted by poets, few of us get excited by the prospect of February – a time of freezing temperatures, frosty skies, and seemingly endless rain and flood. Many dream of nothing more than curling up by the fire and sitting it out till Easter.

Unless, that is, you’re one of the many involved in arts activities across the town of Abingdon… in which case February is often a frantically busy and exciting time. Major drama productions grace the stages at Abingdon and St Helen’s in the first part of the month, followed immediately by GCSE and A Level practical exams. In other areas of the arts, too, there will be many who are relishing an extra February day – courtesy of the leap year – in order to have more time in which to write, film, rehearse or edit work in preparation for the excitements and challenges ahead.

For example, recent weeks have seen Year 9 pupils from several OX14 schools taking on the ultimate acting challenge of preparing an extract from Shakespeare for the first town-wide celebration of the bard to be held at Radley College on 22 March. After yesterday’s internal round, three brave Abingdonians – Anur, Arran and Rex – succeeded in making it through to the Radley final. A week before, they joined thirteen pupils from Fitzharrys School for a joint drama workshop with OA and professional actor Max Hutchinson, who delivered a superb introduction to the demands and joys of performing Shakespeare’s work.

Those who prefer film have been travelling far and wide this month to capture footage for films they hope to complete later this year. Students from Abingdon, Larkmead and Fitzharrys are working on 19 new films whose subjects range from a pioneering engineer who’s developing more efficient electric car motors to the young jockey who’s hoping to ride the next Gold Cup winner from Jonjo O’Neill’s racing stables near Cheltenham. Particularly exciting is the work of two Larkmead students who are striving to make a film for an international project called Le Cinema cent ans de jeunesse, whose theme this year is “filming otherness”. Ben and Aaron have made their focus the March Astronomy Group, whose weekly meetings in the village hall to gain a better understanding of the heavens present a delightful contrast between familiar everyday lives and the unknowable vastness of the skies above.

Meanwhile, Abingdon’s claim to be a training ground for the next generation of media moguls continues to gain credibility via the activities of the Oxfordshire Academy of Broadcast Journalism, an annual programme of workshops led by professional broadcasters Olly Hogben and Blythe Lawrence. Open to students from schools across the OX14 partnership, the OABJ provides an introduction to three core areas of media work – text-based, sound and visual media platforms. Over the coming weeks, students will work on creating blogs, podcasts and video items before sharing their work with each other and broadcast professionals in the summer term.

All in all, these suggest that February’s very far from being a month for hibernating if you’re involved in the arts at Abingdon.

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