The weekend began in the early 1960’s as an opportunity for the adults within Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting to enjoy a stimulating weekend lead by a prominent Friend as a Speaker.
High Leigh has strong Quaker roots as the main house and gardens were once owned by Robert Barclay, a member of one of the Quaker families who helped to establish Barclays Bank.
It has proved an enjoyable place to stay over the years with the grounds in particular providing a lot of pleasure, especially for the children who all enjoy exploring the nooks and crannys and climbing the many trees.
The weekend was first known as the High Leigh Conference Weekend but then became the High Leigh Family Conference to encourage families with children to attend. This title then had the effect of appearing to be aimed at those with families only and the name High Leigh All Age Conference emerged and was the title by which it became best known. As time went on the social side became as important as the input of the Speaker. When Beryl Bell (Walthamstow) arrived she felt that it was more of a gathering than a conference and it became the High Leigh All Age Gathering. The name has since been abbreviated to High Leigh Gathering but we hope the weekend still appeals to Ffriends of all ages.
Looking back to High Leigh 2014 – Saska (Bethnal Green)
It has been heart-warming to go through the feedback responses from High Leigh 2014.
It appears that many friends found the ‘ Creative Spirit’ theme both inspiring and invigorating. The opportunity for friends to have space in the variety of workshops to consider and explore the topic appears to have been welcomed.
I have also taken on board some suggestions to improve the High Leigh experience, notably, timings for events on Saturday evenings. This will be considered by the committee in planning for 2015.
2013 has been my first year on the High Leigh committee as joint children’s organiser with Chris East. It has also been the first year the committee had to implement a safe guarding policy (to fulfil a legal obligation to protect children and vulnerable adults). I felt that within these guidelines, all committee members worked extremely hard to ensure that the children’s program remained focused on facilitating young friends in exploring their own creative spirit.
I think both Chris and I, and the wonderful children’s volunteers all felt the presence of the creative spirit throughout the children’s program. At times it was quite inspiring to see their engagement and their wonderful puppetry creations!
I was also impressed with how well the children adapted to having to be signed in and out of sessions, and the way their individual creativity often led the sessions. It sometimes felt as if this more structured approach towards the children’s sessions made everyone feel more secure, and even facilitated the more reluctant children joining in and gaining confidence and valuable experience from the weekend.
Inevitably, as with the introduction of any new system, there were a few minor teething problems. As a committee ,we welcomed the support we received from many friends in trying to iron out minor issues. I have faith that this support will continue to grow as we move forward together to support young friends in getting the most out of their High Leigh experience. I personally felt that the structure in 2014 was helpful in holding young friends in a space which enabled them to participate fully, both creatively and socially, in the spirit of High Leigh.
I am hopeful that with the support of Stella East, in her role as children’s advocate, we can continue to empower young friends to play an increasing role in the process of developing and organising the children’s program in 2015 – something I am really looking forward to!
Saska ( Bethnal Green )