Equipped with enviable sports and creative arts facilities, the British School of Kuwait has been producing award-winning works by its young artists, ceramicists, photographers and graphic designers, and sell-out productions in visual and performing arts.
Just as the school's British Academy of International Arts' (BAIA) and British Academy of Sports (BAS) Carnival Extravaganza is around the corner on 12 September, we struck up a chat with BAIA Director Patricia Whelan and BAS Director Lucian Aurelian Anisia to catch up and know more about the carnival.
Having secured backing from corporate giants of Kuwait's market for its over-80 booths at the carnival, the carnival is scheduled to be opened by the patrons of the academy, British Ambassador to Kuwait Matthew Lodge and his wife Alexia Lodge. “It is a chance for the people working at the booths to meet the British Ambassador and tell him about their company, which is great for their public relations,” said Whelan.
Commenting on getting hold of the right people for the carnival, Whelan said: “Since we have a very good reputation, people know that when it is an event at BSK, it is top notch, along with the fact that we attract such a good audience. So you will find that people are calling us for a booth because they know that they will find the right clientele they could do business with here. It is a two-way thing.”
“Companies – right from airlines and banks to the hospitals – from all the areas are coming in for the carnival,” added Lucian.
With the carnival extravaganza coinciding with the beginning of new academic year of schools, people returning after summertime and "a lot of new comers coming to Kuwait, they all want to know what is happening and the carnival gives a picture of what life is like in Kuwait," said Whelan.
For parents looking to direct their kids energies – be it creativity, or sports, or simply socializing and having fun at the carnival, the academies' coaches will be on hand to answer questions from interested people on anything from gymnastics to ballet (with certificates from The Royal Academy of Dance), swimming to basketball, football, tennis, karate, roller skating aerobics, swimming, kick-boxing (a new addition this year), zumba for kids, badminton, or gymnastics.
“The other unique thing about BAIA and BAS is that we welcome children from every school; so we would have lots of children from the Indian schools, British schools and other private schools. They also come to us in the evening hours because we are like a club. At the weekends, parents like the idea that their kids are involved in activities with us since all our coaches are professionals from Europe, and they are all experienced with children of all nationalities,” said Whelan.
Since the inception of BSK, the school itself has had a high reputation for sports and arts, as a result, “when parents would call for their kids from other schools to learn let’s say ballet, things started developing in a way that led to our growth and to selecting our own set of classes and academy where we could bring children of all nationalities irrespective of which school they go to,” said Whelan.
Of the four faculties that BAIA has – dance, theatre, music, and fashion – dance includes, tap, contemporary, jazz, ballet, street dance and hip-hop; while theatre involves all kinds of drama, public speaking and shows, as well as the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) examinations for all ages from 3 years up to adults.
The music faculty teaches instruments, individually as well as in groups, again with exams and huge gala concerts. Meanwhile, the fashion and art faculty teaches fashion and provides instructions in painting, drawing, ceramics, sewing and all the other aspects of arts.
A proud Whelan revealed, “One of our students just graduated and went to London School of Fashion and just started there this summer.”
Shows such as Matilda this spring; the ‘Big Dance Gala’ show, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the coming March, are just some of the quality productions from BAIA to look forward to.
The sports director Lucian explained, “The most important thing with BAS is that we have so many activities, especially when you generally find just football and basketball being practiced in Kuwait. Here, we have eleven sports activities, so kids can pick up swimming and basketball and at the same time, ballet from BAIA.”
On getting the right coaches and trainers for these activities, Lucian added, “First priority is to take them from BSK and then from other schools, including American and other British schools.”
“Apart from the course, we have international tournaments, including annual basketball and volleyball tournaments between communities from a minimum of eight countries from all the embassies in Kuwait. We also have international trips – this year, in October, we have a trip to Barcelona, Spain. The BAS also invites students from other schools,” continued Lucian.
Last year, the BAS team went to Dubai for five days and then to Romania, where the kids enjoyed a myriad of sports including swimming, horse-riding, archery and football. The BAIA- and BAS-conducted summer and winter camps, with a mix of sports and arts, have cut across all nationalities and are quite popular among children of all schools.
“The BSK has students from 75 different nationalities and the BAIA and BAS proportions are about the same – 40 percent might be Kuwaitis and the rest are all mixed nationalities,” added Whelan.
Whelan reaffirmed BSK’s excellent relationship, since the very beginning, with Kuwait and its strong ties with various embassies having run a significant number of international tournaments with them.
As for the arts, Whelan explained that she has many children coming through the embassies for dance, theatre, drama, or fashion, as well the embassies calling them for diversified performances on their national days or festivals. In addition, “embassies also inform us of workshops for students when they have cultural troupes from different countries arriving in Kuwait,” she said.
The BAIA and BAS have also been an important part of the collective efforts of other British organizations in Kuwait, “We all integrate and work closely together. For example, in ‘Britain in Kuwait’ expo, we had a big booth where we invited the orchestra for the national anthem and to play British songs at the event. Every year, we have a role in it; the other time we brought people to do mime and different kinds of games.”
In line with their expansion plans, this year, the academy’s students would be heading to The Royal Academy of Dance, London for a dance trip and to other places. The BAIA and BAS certainly look forward to enhanced exchanges, more visits by people from other places and more workshops to spread the word about arts and sports, and hopefully to get more people involved in it.
“We are happy if people say ‘Oh! I came to Kuwait thinking there is going to be nothing to do here, but then I discovered this’; or when people discover through us a passion they did not know they had; or when somebody takes up an art form and become great at it,” said Whelan.
The response of Kuwaitis and their kids has been encouraging for the academy: “They love it. A lot of them love the discipline of ballet. While they might not want the girls to perform on a stage but they are very happy for them to learn the lessons and to have them sit for one-to-one exam with the examiners. They love all of this. They really feel that all of this is a part of learning and development as a person; it gives them confidence and helps them become more outgoing,” she added.
Patricia Whelan is a graduate of Psychology, Philosophy and Classical Studies at University College Dublin and has a teaching qualification in Primary Education and a Masters Degree in Special Education. Having taught in Ireland for eighteen years she came to Kuwait in 1992 and has held myriad positions at BSK, including Key Stage 2 Coordinator, Deputy Head Teacher, Marketing Manager, Administration Manager and Public Relations Manager and now as the Director of BAIA. Her personal interests include classical music, theatre, textiles, and walking.