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100 years after the first Oakley Holiday Party at Ardingly in Sussex our group celebrated the Centenary with an active and diverse week at Bilton Grange, with nine boys and girls attending Oakley for the first time. 


Bilton Grange School, set in 160 acres of superb enclosed parklands on the outskirts of Rugby was again ideal for our programme of indoor and outdoor activities which took place in largely sunny and warm weather. We were housed in the School's comfortable dormitories - bed linen, pillows and duvets provided - with separate rooms for older leaders. 


Top quality food, provided by the school’s catering team, was much liked, with a separate menu for vegans and vegetarians.  A ‘green’ awareness theme ran through the menu with the use of locally sourced and fairtrade food. The sports fields, woodlands and gardens provided a delightful backdrop for all our outdoor activities.  Everyone played our principal team games of volleyball or podex and, as usual, the unique Oakley golf and tiddlywinks tournaments were sportingly contested in pairs.


An ingenious Centenary wide game round the house and grounds on the theme of “Oakley through the decades” saw ten of the leaders in exotic period costume being sought and questionned by teams of six who had to complete a series of challenges.  In the afternoons the choice of activities included dance, touch rugby, padder tennis, jam making, squash for beginners, croquet, photography, face painting, basketball in the sport hall and water polo in the heated pool. 


An excursion to Rugby involved all our leaders dressing as everything from a pot of strawberry jam to Donald Trump, from the Statue of Liberty to a Word War II Land Girl and roaming through the town centre and park, as younger members tried to find and  identify them all.


Over £1100 was donated to four charities chosen by members of the Holiday by means of a special collection. Immediately after the Holiday part of this was taken in person to St. Luke’s Leprosy Hospital in India by one of our young leaders, Layla Shafiq - an account and pictures of her visit are on a separate webpage.  


During the week the Centenary was marked by pictures of each dormitory with the Centenary banner, the creation of an Oakley family tree, the sale of specially designed Tee shirts and water bottles, the first flying of a specially-made Centenary flag and the lighting of a beacon. 


In discussion groups, presentations and through our evening talks we thought about and considered a number of current personal and social topics. These included the plight of refugees, the pressures imposed by social media and the problem of searching for personal perfection. Several sessions were followed by very well attended and lively participation and debate. 


Evenings were spent in the Ravenscroft Hall where members devised and performed an appealing range of entertainment.  This included individual instrumental contributions, some music hall comedy, a diabolo show, a cappella singing and an improvised orchestra, as well as community singing and comedy sketches devised and performed by all the dormitories.   


The final day was designated as the Centenary Day, with 150 former Oakley members  joining us for lunch and the afternoon – a separate account of these celebrations can be found on the website. In the evening members enjoyed a hectic inter-regional volleyball tournament in glorious sunshine, followed by a final sing song at which new members received certificates to mark their first Oakley week. As a finale everyone was surprised and delighted with a firework display to mark 100 years of Oakley holidays and values.  

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