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On a sunny Thursday afternoon, 20 June 2024, the Malvern St James community gathered for a special occasion: the unveiling of "Idara," a beautiful Wellbeing Bench created by award-winning local sculptor Simon Probyn. This unique piece of art, made from galvanized steel tubes, was generously commissioned by current parents Mr. Unuigbe and Ms. James to honor their daughter Aita's four joyful years at MSJ.

The name "Idara," meaning 'joy' in Igbo and 'community' in Urdu, perfectly encapsulates the spirit behind this thoughtful gift. It symbolizes the joy and community that Aita experienced and contributed to during her time at MSJ. The bench is not just a piece of art but a space for pupils and staff to sit, chat, and contemplate.

Ms. Sedo James, alongside a group of girls, staff, and friends of the school, cut the ribbon to officially unveil the sculpture. She expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the school, saying, "We are delighted to gift the school with this sculpture in recognition of Aita's time as Pastoral Prefect of Malvern St James. I want to sincerely thank you for the care and encouragement you have shown to my daughter."

The Story Behind the Bench

The bench was a collaborative effort between Simon Probyn and MSJ, involving Year 11 and Sixth Form Design Technology pupils during Wellbeing Week. Simon, whose impressive work includes a monumental piece near Tower Bridge called Thames London Perch, worked closely with Aita to design and create the bench. The project involved not just the artist but also the pupils making it a true community effort.

As part of Wellbeing Week, a group of Year 11 pupils visited Simon's workshop to assist in the creation of the sculpture and learn about the welding process. Esme, one of the participating pupils, shared her experience:

"We went to Simon's workshop as part of a project for Wellbeing Week. We are creating a sculpture as a bench and bee hotel to sit in our school for spring 2024. We were able to go to the workshop and help make parts of the sculpture as well as learning more about how welding works. Helping to create the structure helps our well-being, being outside and doing something physical that focuses the mind helps you to connect, also giving you a sense of pride to help make and process behind such a large and significant sculpture which will be enjoyed by many people in the time to come. This was an amazing experience on how to weld and seeing the process of creating a sculpture for Wellbeing Week."

Esme Yr 11

A Unique Addition to MSJ

The Wellbeing Bench was installed during Wellbeing Week, with the MSJ community invited to add personal touches. Members of the community placed pieces of bamboo into some of the sculpture’s tubes to create ‘bee hotels’ in the upright sections of the bench. These bamboo pieces, glued tightly in place and drilled to create a hollow centre, are intended to provide refuge for local bees. Additionally, contributors were encouraged to write a wish or the name of someone special on their piece of bamboo before adding it to the sculpture, making it a deeply personal and meaningful installation.

Already, the bench has become a beloved spot for pupils and staff to gather, enjoy the sunshine, and enhance their wellbeing. We hope the bees will soon find their new hotel as welcoming as the MSJ community finds the bench.