2017's Wennington/PETT collaboration in the Common Roots Conference was titled "Progressive Education and the Future". It was a 24-hour event. At the close of Day 1, after a delicious meal together,  we celebrated Hylda Sims with the first in a new series of Audiences with people whose lives have been touched by alternative/democratic/progressive education.



interlocutor: Richard Schofield

06 HyldaHylda Sims: Writer and folk musician, Hylda is the love child of market traders, her early education involving a few days at one school and then another as her parents followed the circuits of Britain's markets and fairs. Things looked up when she became a pupil at Summerhill; and later, a student at the University of Hull, and then the LSE. Hylda writes songs, poetry and novels (including Inspecting the Island, 'the Summerhill novel'). With Freer Spreckley – also from Summerhill – she founded the still active Lifespan community in 19 railway workers' cottages on the South Yorkshire moors. Hylda has worked as an 'Elizabethan Minstrel', a teacher, a specialist tutor and a single parent. She also ran the Skiffle Cellar, a night spot in 1950s Soho; and has for the past twenty years hosted a monthly poetry and music event at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden. Hylda sings with the skiffle and blues group City Ramblers Revival, a reformation of the original City Ramblers skiffle group – recorded on Tempo, Storyville and Topic labels – with whom she toured Europe, appearing at the International Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957 (Remarkably, Youtube has footage of this moment). She divides her time between Norwich and London.


1. Background and life story




2. Poems, songs and stories



At the age of fourteen, when badly failing in a thousand-strong uniformed secondary school in Essex, Richard was sent by his local authority to become one of the hundred or so pupils at Wennington School in the West Riding. The rest is history. (Which includes – after a number of years as an agricultural worker – studying architecture and then typography before teaching newspaper design). Other propellants are the sixties, art school, and the History Workshop movement.