For 100 years, young people from all parts of the country have had the opportunity to take part in a week of activities which they may remember for the rest of their lives. During the holiday they have the chance to play all types of sports, appear "on stage" and try a wide variety of other activities.
Most importantly, they can meet other young people who have the same approach to life and who share the same ideals if not always the same ideas. All enjoy the great spirit of friendship which pervades the holiday. Each person is valued for themselves and makes their own unique contribution to the success of the week.
Our home for the week is The Downs, Malvern, a preparatory school quietly set in 55 acres, on the edge of the stunning Malvern Hills on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border. It has comfortable and spacious bedrooms, with a separate area of the house for girls and boys.
We have the use of the school’s sports hall, tennis courts, astro-turf pitches, two large common rooms for meeting and socialising, and a theatre. The extensive playing fields at The Downs are conveniently situated near to the house and are ideal for outdoor games.
We use dormitories for sleeping, with 4~9 people in a room. Meals are prepared for us by the school chef (three cooked meals each day) with special meals for vegetarians, vegans and those with other special dietary needs. The friendly and welcoming school is an ideal base for a busy but relaxing holiday.
Part of each day is spent playing sport. Volleyball and Podex (a cross between cricket and baseball) are the main team games. We also play tennis, hockey, football and basketball, often adapting the rules to enable everyone, regardless of age or ability, to play a full part. Members enjoy the light-hearted approach to our games which we play in teams, pairs or small informal groups. Enthusiasm and participation matter as much as skill, and there is the chance to learn new games such as squash and handball as well as playing with a partner in our Oakley 'Golf' tournament using walking sticks and tennis balls.
Time is made in the day for less energetic activities. There are opportunities to learn Mahjong (a Chinese tile game), to take part in craft workshops and relaxation classes, to cook, to join in a play-reading or dance, to sing or make music, to play croquet or bowls and be led by some of the older members in a wide variety of creative activities. Many of the activities are repeated during the week so that it is possible to enjoy all of them. No activity requires previous knowledge, all are easily learned, and all are good fun.
There is a thoughtful side to the holiday and our members enjoy the chance to think and talk about a wide range of contemporary concerns.
The value of diversity, the place of religious belief, ‘green’ issues, the use of time, talents and money, as well as leadership, the challenges of school and family life and the
influence of the media, are frequent areas of discussion.
These topics are introduced by means of a talk by one of the leaders, followed by an opportunity to debate the issues in a supportive atmosphere where everyone’s viewpoint is respected.
Each evening we have a home-made entertainment session, during which we put on comic sketches, play music, dance and take part in a sing-song.
Those who can play a musical instrument or who can sing or entertain are encouraged to do so, and everyone's contribution is valued. This event usually lasts for about an hour and a half, and is an excellent way of ending the day.
A Typical Oakley Day
Although every day brings something new on an Oakley Holiday, the following describes a 'typical' day:
08.00: Optional swim
10.00: Team games / activities
13.15: Siesta (time to rest and practise for evening entertainment)
14.00: Choice of activities - sports, creative, musical, relaxing.
16.45: Outdoor team activity
19.30: Talking point and discussion
23.00: Lights out
The Senior members of the holiday, most of whom have attended since they were teenagers, bring much expertise and experience to their leadership roles. Sportsmen and women, doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers and business people all give freely of their time and talents to make the holiday a success.
Friendship is the inspiration of the holidays and has been since they were started in 1919. Sporting ability and musical talent matter less than the willingness of the person to join in and contribute to the enjoyment of the holiday in a thoughtful and unselfish way.
A spirit of good humour and support characterises each holiday, and the special atmosphere created by an appreciation of everyone's talents is a striking feature, particularly for our new members.
People may arrive knowing no-one, but will certainly leave knowing everyone. Some lifelong friendships have been forged at these holidays.