Feb 28

Chris Woodland dies, aged 72 on February 23rd 2010

Tag: Persephone's UpdatesPersephone Arbour @ 11:56 am

Chris Woodland

There are some of you who read this site who worked with Chris at Cortijo Romero and other places before he retired to Scarborough. I received notice of his death today – and wanted to honour him in some way. We had been good friends and colleagues, it was a privilege to have known him.

On Google, I found this piece which I have taken from the Scarborough Evening News. (published on the 25th February) Chris was a much loved man, and I am sure I will be forgiven for some editing – in order not to take up too much space.

As you will see, Chris was passionate about teaching, especially teaching with creativity. But, apart from working with him as a colleague – I also knew him as a poet – it is in his poetry that he is still to be found. Persephone

Eton master had some famous pupils
By Dave Barry, from the Scarborough Evening News – February 25th

AN ETON schoolmaster who went to school in Scarborough and retired to the town in 2004 has died. Chris Woodland, 72, died from prostate cancer on Tuesday with his family around him at his Esplanade home.

A gentle, compassionate and empathetic man, Mr Woodland taught Prince William, Conservative leader David Cameron and MP Boris Johnson during 22 years at Eton. Few teachers can claim to have had these power players on their school register but the real joy for Chris was developing his pupils’ creative side in the English department . . .

. . . “There’s a mini-Shakespeare in all of us,” he said when interviewed by the Evening News in 2008. “It’s important to give that a chance to develop and show. For me it’s about respecting the individuality of each child,” he said.

Chris was born in Rotherham, where he attended grammar school and transferred to Scarborough High School for Boys after his dad got a job at the technical college which was then in Trinity Road. While at school and immediately after, he helped with the box office at the Stephen Joseph Theatre at the library, where it was launched.

After leaving school aged 19, he was offered a place at Cambridge University to take after completing two years’ national service. . .

. . . He left school teaching for higher education and became a lecturer in English at Christ Church College in Canterbury and later a senior lecturer at La Sainte Union College of Education in Southampton. . .During this period of his career, he produced several scripts for a TV series called Ways With Words. Chris said: “I had a good job in Southampton but frankly I was getting bored with the fact there was a lot of committee, paper and admin work, which wasn’t the reason I went into the job. I was much more interested in being with students in schools. I kept an eye out as to whether I could return to school teaching, possibly with a deputy headship or something that would give me a fair amount of responsibility.”

He spotted an advert in the Times educational supplement for a job at Eton to promote creativity and update its English teaching. He said: “It was a very delicate role because it involved change. They went to a great deal of trouble to shortlist people and give them a long interview. I thought, gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to make of this school. It was like a different world. When they offered me the job they said ‘we’re offering you a unique role’ and it was. I thought this is an amazing opportunity to be given a lot of creative freedom in this school. The idea was to nourish the personal creativity and spirit within every boy.”

Besides Prince William, whom he described as “a very pleasant boy to teach and wanted to be treated like everyone else”, and David Cameron and Boris Johnson, he taught actors Simon Woods and Damian Lewis. During his time at Eton he wrote five plays, which were all produced, and studied film writing when he retired.

In 2004, he returned to Scarborough to live by the sea and soon took on several projects.
He volunteered at the Samaritans because he wanted to give something back to the organisation after turning to them when his marriage broke down.

Another big part of his life was poetry, which he explored as a member of Scarborough Poetry Workshop, directing the Poetry Café at the SJT and published his work. And, with the Rev Mark Haynes, he set up Open Circle at Westborough Methodist Church, which features periods of silence, meditation, music and literature.

Chris remained friends with his ex-wife Rosemary, with whom he had two children. Rebecca and Richard provided three grandchildren, Pacha, Micah and James.

When asked what he had learnt from his life, Chris said: “What I keep coming back to is to value the individuality of everyone and to value and nurture each other’s uniqueness.”

Chris planned his funeral, which will be conducted by Rev Haynes at Westborough Church on Friday March 5 at 1.15pm. He asked that no-one should wear traditional dark mourning clothes or send flowers or wreaths. Instead, people are asked to wear bright clothes in a celebration of Chris’s life.

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2 Responses to “Chris Woodland dies, aged 72 on February 23rd 2010”

  1. Jenny Pearson says:

    Dear Persephone
    This is a sad moment to be saying hello to another friend of Chris Woodland’s, but I wanted to send a note of greeting and appreciation for your obituary posted on the Internet. I was looking to see if anyone had written about him, and was pleased to see that you had done so. Thank you.
    Your may already know of me, as I know of you: Chris had his unique way of relating to people individually and talking quite a lot about them to other friends! And we both had the pleasure of co-leading workshops with him. He was a wonderful friend and a joy to work with on creative project. He will be greatly missed.
    All good wishes, Jenny

  2. rosemary larner says:

    Dear Persephone
    Thank you for Chris’s obituary.
    I was his friend and a member of the poetry group here in Scarborough. I had the privilege of being with him, along with other close friends and his family at the end of his life. Chris was loved and respected so much here. If you wanted you could see some of his poems and tributes to him on the Scarborough Poetry Workshop website. http://www.scarboroughpoets.org.uk/

    Please just contact me if ever you would wish to share memories