Older past students have memories of School Day. More recent past and present students know Open Day–even though it is an evening! Why this shift? Open Day has experienced several makeovers, concept changes, and names. Old Girls’ Day, School Day, Expo and Open Day have all been titles gracing magazine reports, invitations, programs, and media.
On arrival at the School in 2002, Dr Amanda Bell observed Open Day was a serious drain on the School community when held on a Saturday. It was her suggestion to ‘change it up’ and create a four-hour afternoon/twilight event on a Friday.
When asked to allude to her reasoning for the change, she stated, ‘I did have the idea to trial Friday night. Shorten the timeframe. Catch people on their way home from work, use it as an outing where they could get an easy dinner (Fathers and Mothers Group), not impact everyone’s weekends, use part of the school day to set up and involve all staff and students, everyone home by 9 pm and grounds cleaned up. Cooler, more focused events, evening gave it a point of difference from others, made it more exciting for the littlies …’
‘After the trial, most staff, P&F and Board were very happy and wanted to keep it that way. Attendances were much better and feedback very positive (especially from future students/families). We had a much higher attendance and engagement by our own students than on Saturdays …’ (Email 30.06.21)
As well as timing, 2003 welcomed a range of changes with one being the introduction of the Year 7 ‘passport’. This idea came from the newly appointed Enrolments Registrar, Loren Bridge. ‘I joined BGGS in May 2003 and … instigated the “passport” to move the Year 7s around the campus (an idea borrowed from Tourism Australia’s travel show, OzTalk USA)’. (Loren Bridge Email 26.07.21) The concept was highly successful and the numbers overwhelming.
School Day, as it was originally labelled, evolved from Old Girls’ Day. The exact date of the first Old Girls Day is unknown. The first BGGS magazine published in 1913 states, ‘one Saturday afternoon in each year there is an “annual” social meeting at the school and a tennis match between Past and Present (students)’. Certainly, in 1929, archival images illustrate an enthusiastically supported Old Girls’ Day. However, as the years progressed, the ‘Bring and Buy’ concept faltered, and in 1955 it was reported in the annual School magazine that ‘… very few old girls “brought” anything to sell and if it had not been for the generosity of the parents in supplying so much food for afternoon tea, we would not have been able made a profit.’
In 1957, it was decided that the Old Girls’ Day should be “suspended” and the Old Girls Association should combine with the School and the Parents’ and Friends’ Association to create a School Day to which the whole community would be invited.
In 2021, we celebrate our 64th School Day or Open Day and our eighteenth evening Open Day. When asked to compare the two styles of event, my belief is that the afternoon/evening combination is the most powerful, fulfilling the aims of a successful event: visual impact; structure which provides variety, showcasing all aspects of the School; quality entertainment; and celebration of all the positives that capture Girls Grammar!
It is certainly an evening when the School proclaims that all are welcome. From the fairy lights it takes five days to set up, to the BGGS illuminated letters, to the projections on the Hirst Building, the School community celebrates that ‘wonderful’ experience of being a member of the Girls Grammar family.
Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)
Manager, School History and Culture