Night of Notables, 2014

BHHS Night of Notables



Date: Wednesday 3 December




Dress Code: Costume


Book_w_ink_blotchPreparation: Hours of research, poster making, creative display design and interaction with your partner and classmates


stage_curtain_tall_pageGoal/s: You stand on the stage, deliver your quotation, walk proudly through the throng of admiring parents (without tripping on the stairs) and return to your presentation table, where you explain your choice, display your knowledge and speak with maturity, confidence and insight…


That’s not so difficult, is it?

Before all that, you will need to hand in your poster, the sole item that receives a grade. All the rest of your work is pure creative pleasure, but your poster, if you are dedicated, will also require meticulous research, careful design and imaginative layout. Below are a few suggestions to help you as you work.

  • Most importantly of all, do not copy and paste from the internet.
  • Read a variety of sources, even (drum roll) BOOKS!
  • In order to show your own personal response to the person and life that you have investigated, give your own personal evaluation as you write. Try to connect what you write about your notable person to your own life. You might for example write sentences such as these:


In his/her childhood, _ _ _ _ _ developed skills | formed interests  that were to influence his/her future career…

pencil_3Although he/she experienced difficulties with _ _ _ _ , he/she was able to overcome them by _ _ _.

pencil_3I respect _ _ _ _ _ _ for his/her contribution to _ _ _ _ _.

pencil_3This person’s life has shown me that _ _ _ _ _ .

pencil_3I believe he/she will be remembered for _ _ _ _ .

pencil_3Researching _ _ _ _ _ _’s life has taught me to _ _ _ _ _ _.

  • Try to present your poster with pictures, symbols and creative elements such as diagrams and sketches. You might find that looking at some of the “infographics” on the internet will give you some ideas for your design. Here are a few examples that might inspire you to search for more:

How to Live a Creative Life – infographic

A Steve Jobs infographic

Infographic – Successful and Unsuccessful People

Infographic – 50 Ways to Take a Break

describing people
Useful and specific words for describing notable people

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A night to remember

Lachie reflecting the brilliance of the whole Year 7 cohort
Aaron as Louis Pasteur
Oscar as Andy Warhol with an artistic can of soup
Oscar as Andy Warhol with an artistic can of soup
Ryan ate his apple and had it too...
Ryan ate his apple and had it too...
Not just an apple but a whole orchard
Not just an apple but a whole orchard in Ryan's display
Amos as King Alfred
Aksaran looking dapper as Sir Mark Oliphant
An edible part of Jesse's display for the Brothers Grimm
An edible part of Jesse's display for the Brothers Grimm
Dewansh wears a debonair moustache
Dewansh wears a debonair moustache

Nick and Jesse

Now, step back into the medieval world…

Piers_plowman_drolleries public domain wikipedia commonsThey were poor. They did all the menial work. They made up more than 90% of the population. They were often wretched and pitiable. Which people am I describing?

No, not you! You may believe your lives to be wretched and feel that a little sympathy is just what you need, but I’m referring to the peasants of medieval Europe.

Seedman copyright free from medieval clipartImage kindly provided by

Even in such a lowly group, there were variations in status. Some were free and some were serfs. A serf was like a slave but not quite a slave. My beloved Shorter Oxford (which I carry around in my pocket on my i-Pod) describes a serf in this way: “a person in a condition of servitude or modified slavery”. According to this tome (which in its book form would weigh down even the healthiest peasant), the powers of the master were “more or less limited by law or custom”. You can see that the writers of the Shorter Oxford, being learned types, don’t want to be too specific.

In any case, I doubt whether such precise meanings would have mattered much to the peasants. When you are nearly a slave, but not quite, the finer distinctions might not concern you. (The word “villein” is also used sometimes as a synonym for serf.) Servitude meant that the serfs were subject to the will of the lord of the manor; they could not leave the manor without his permission. They were subjugated, they were poor, they were often hungry; to get through each year would have required unimaginable struggle, grinding toil and, I assume, a fair bit of luck.

Medieval face from http medievalHunger was a constant danger, starvation a real possibility. According to Lacey and Danziger, the writers of The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millenium, July in England was the toughest month for the poor to get through. The spring crops had not yet matured; the midsummer harvest produced hay for the animals and nothing for the humans. This time was referred to as “the hungry gap”.

Yet there were some healthy aspects of their lifestyle. They had a very healthy diet, if only they could get enough of it. They lived on a pottage (like a porridge) of grain and vegetables, into which they dipped the hard, coarse and often stale flat bread that they baked. No soft, fluffy bread for them: their bread was a little like a pita bread or nan, but tougher and coarser. The pottage served to soften the hard, stale bread and make it edible. The bread was also used as an edible plate, called a “trencher”.

DETAIL october tilling and sowing pd calendar page of  Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de BerryA detail from the beautiful 15th century Book of Hours (in the public domain from called Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. This shows October – tilling and sowing.

One of the healthiest aspects of their diet was that they had no sugar. Until the 17th century, when sugar was brought back from the Caribbean, no one in England had sugar. Honey was so precious that it was sometimes used as a currency. Imagine a life without sugar! But at least it meant they experienced almost no dental or jaw decay. The skeletal remains of the Anglo-Saxons in the year 1000 show that they were surprisingly tall, with excellent teeth.

Below are some extra details about their lives, with some websites for you to explore. Don’t work too hard. I don’t want you to feel like serfs.

Did you know…?

Medieval face from http medieval

Medieval peasants worked long hours, produced most of the food and paid most of the taxes. If you want justice, don’t expect to find it in the medieval world.

Medieval face from http medieval

Peasants’ cottages had dirt floors and walls made of mud and straw. There was no glass in their windows and their animals often lived with them.

Medieval face from http medieval

Fleas were common. People expected to have them.

Medieval face from http medieval

Many peasants died in the winter from hypothermia.

Medieval face from http medieval

Outer clothes were rarely washed but wood smoke acted as a kind of deodorant.

Medieval face from http medieval

It has been estimated that 20% of women died in childbirth (this would not have varied much from peasants to the wealthy, presumably). Infant mortality was also high.


General details of peasant life:

A village street of the Middle Ages

Click on the characters in the street to discover the range of people in medieval life:

Peasant life and housing with pictures of cruckhouses:

Some questions for you to answer in a comment:

1) Read up on the kinds of people who lived in medieval villages and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each person. Who would you most like to be and why? A trader? A peasant? A lord?

2) Which part of being a medieval peasant would you find the hardest? (Think about what you would miss most: Facebook? PSP? Sugar? The internet? Getting an education?)

3) Name one modern object/idea/thing you would give a family of medieval peasants (e.g: electricity or a television).

4) Now imagine you could only give the family one medieval object, idea or experience – what would you give them? (e.g. a cow, a new church, more clothing, better toilet facilities). Make sure you include WHY you think this is the most important thing a medieval family of peasants needs.

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Arrangements for the Night of Notables

Commit these details to memory and keep working!

N of N clockDate: Tuesday 26 October

Morning: Students are to bring display materials to school with them (except heavy or expensive items).

After lunch: Students prepare their displays in the rooms surrounding the quadrangle.

2.55p.m: Dismissal as usual

6p.m: Students return to school wearing their costumes and bringing heavy or expensive items for display.

6.30p.m: Presentation in hall to family and friends

7p.m. – 8p.m: Students go to the display rooms where family and friends visit them, ask them questions and admire their displays.

8p.m: End of evening; students take home heavy or expensive items.

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