Hanford School’s nativity –unchanged for over 60 years

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A local school has performed the same nativity since 1960 – even using the same costumes!
Every school’s nativity play is a special highlight of the year. But for Hanford School near Blandford, the nativity play is a timeless school tradition.

hanford school's nativity is unchanged for 60 years, including the costumes


It was written in 1960, especially for Hanford‘s founder, Mrs Canning, by Donald Kittermaster. He had been headteacher of The King’s School, Worcester before joining Hanford as an English teacher. Mr Kittermaster wrote the nativity specifically with Hanford’s hall in mind, and he based his play on the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
The original costumes, some of which were given by Lady Rockley from the Amhurst Collection, are still used every year and give the play not only its colour but add a sense of authenticity and history. Mrs Canning, who encouraged girls to develop an interest in History of Art, wanted to recreate tableaus from Renaissance paintings, particularly works by Botticelli, Guido Reni and Murillo.

hanford school's nativity is unchanged for 60 years.


Old Girls were welcomed back to see the nativity play, many of whom had happy memories of playing their own part in the nativity when they were at Hanford. Rory Johnston, Head of Hanford School, said, ‘Congratulations to all the girls involved in this year’s nativity play; once again the magic of the Christmas story came alive in the Hanford Hall. As ever the music, singing, costumes and script all came together so beautifully to create a very special experience for all involved. Hanford’s nativity play has not changed for over 60 years and is a much-loved part of the school calendar.’

hanford school nativity shepherds

The play is considered as much an act of worship as it is theatre; always performed by girls in Years 7 and 8 it incorporates beautiful choral music. Interestingly, the first girl to take the role of Mary was Emma Kirkby, who would go on to become Dame Emma, one of the greatest sopranos. The Hanford nativity has been performed every Christmas since 1960 and its appeal is timeless.

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