Protests, papparazi,royal weddings and Jack the Ripper. Just your typical RSS field trip.

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
April 6th, 2011

Though spring break 2011 is over, a group of drama students from RSS (and one from Nova Scotia) and their chaperones have enough amazing memories to last a lifetime after a week spent in London. The group left Spokane on March 19th and after a lengthy delay in Minneapolis, arrived late in London on the 21st, and returned home the night of March 28th. The time in between was chock full of tourist activities, shopping, and hamming it up for their own cameras.


But also, in a city like London, they encountered some other unique experiences some of us can only appreciate from our living rooms as we watch the evening news.


One such experience involved the some of the group’s members encountering the aftermath of a massive protest by British students at Trafalgar Square rallying against government cutbacks to post secondary education. They didn’t have any TV where they were staying and it wasn’t until drama teacher and trip organizer Lisa Henderson got back that she saw footage of exactly how big the protest was.


“Trafalgar Square was solid packed, like Armistice Day. It started at around noon and went until about three, and we were in Leicester Square around that time, and so we saw little pods that were breaking off from the main [protest]. They were finished the official rally and they were  marching through the streets and a lot of them had bandannas across their faces and were dressed in black, and they were banging on drums and tooting horns you hear at hockey games.” Two students were closer to the protest than the main group, having gone on a shopping excursion, and managed to see parts of the main protest and snap a couple of pictures of it from a store after being startled by a smoke bomb going off.


Henderson also noted the amount of cleaning up and preparations in full swing in anticipation of the royal wedding on April 29th, and also for the upcoming 2012 Olympics. Huge scaffolding structures were being erected around Buckingham Palace for the media to use during the wedding celebration at the end of the month, and while poking around the front of the palace, some of the group managed to have their very own royal sighting.


“We got there in time to see the gates [of Buckingham Palace] open and a dark sedan whisking by,” Henderson recalls. “ And in the back seat was a lovely young brunette with her hat down low, and a handsome young man beside her. It was Kate and William!


We guessed that they were probably coming back from Westminster Abbey from making arrangements for the wedding because Westminster Abbey was closed that day for some mysterious reason for three or four hours. That’s not usual; it’s always open to the public. And it opened up around the time this car came back. And then minutes later, another car came out [of the palace gates], this time driven by Kate herself. There was someone with her but I couldn’t see if it was William or someone else.”


Since this was a drama trip, there was plenty of live theatre: Les Miserables, Warhorse, Million Dollar Quartet, and Wicked were on the itinerary, but on a free night some of the students and chaperones took in an additional show called Children’s Hour, which starred Kiera Knightly, Ellen Burstyn, and Elizabeth Moss.


The rest of the group went shopping, where Henderson reported many funky pairs of shoes and boots were tried on and purchased.


The other big item on the itinerary was the tour of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel, done at nighttime for maximum creepiness. “It was a bit anti-climactic,” Henderson admits, but did say it was very informative for the students.


Community support was key in making this trip a success. The drama department raised money with two bottle drives this school year, the most recent one being in February, where Henderson stated that they made over $1800 – their second most successful bottle drive ever. Additionally, the bumper sticker campaign, started by the father of one of the drama students, raised enough money to help one family out with some of the ancillary expenses related to the trip.


And speaking of those bumper stickers, the students tagged all kinds of sites around London with them, though Henderson told them not to put them on any historical sites or monuments. Now bearing the PARIS-LONDON-NEW YORK-ROSSLAND bumper stickers are several tube stations, Picadilly Square, and Leicester Square, amongst other locations.


There is one interesting local theatre connection worthy of note here. An ancestor of Rossland’s Bourchier clan was an actor, Arthur Bourchier, of some note in London back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His ghost is said to haunt the Garrick Theatre to this day, and members of Henderson’s group got to see the theatre from the outside but didn’t get to see the ghost himself. “We were able to tell our tour guide that [Arthur Bourchier’s] descendants are still thespians,” said Henderson with a laugh, referring to the number of Bourchiers who have been involved in our very own RLOP.


Henderson noted that the students were “as good as gold” and that the group got along very well. There were no incidents of note that people often run into when travelling – like food poisoning, getting lost, muggings, and the like – other than that first delay with the plane and some issues with using public transit while tube stations were closed for the protest and for other reasons. It was all part of the adventure that will be the subject of stories for years to come for this group of high school students.

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