Sam Banks by Jack Finch

Sam Banks

Sam consistently contributed so much towards the Bedales community from the age of 10 when he joined in Dunhurst. A vocal figure right from the start, who explored different artistic mediums to express himself. His social activism in group 3 set the tone for the rest of his Bedales career. Sam was partially responsible for a quarter of the year group abstaining from eating factory farmed meats, motivated by ethics advocated by the Compassion in world farming organisation. We held regular demonstrations in the Well and displayed posters all over the school. Sam had a similar impact on the school’s meat consumption years later in block 6.2 when he presented a stirring assembly to the school, outlining the compelling reasons to become vegetarian. He had a conviction in everything he said, which was enriched by such a morally astute understanding of the world. Sam’s assembly approached the argument from a very human angle, reaching everyone’s hearts by displaying honest pictures of animal welfare and helping people make the connection between what they are eating and the mass murder which is being committed towards creatures which aren’t too far removed ourselves. He played on people’s empathy; the assembly was upsetting yet powerfully moving, it was a moment when even the coldest hearted would have considered vegetarianism. Sam saw it as an opportunity to speak the truth and didn’t have any interests in coercing people into vegetarianism. His passion was infectious; I distinctly remember on the evening of his presentation, the meat option in the canteen was very much neglected.

Sam had a lot of extra curricular involvement at school; he really took advantage of the stimulating outlets that Bedales had to offer. This was fortunate for everyone who attended because of how talented he was. Whether walking the boards, performing in the rock show or impressing us with his fierce cricketing skills; he always had an eminent role in the community. Leadership is definitely a word that comes to mind when reminiscing on Sam’s time at school. He had such a strong presence amongst his friends, he would always guide us in whatever we were doing, so it was only appropriate that he captained the school cricket team. Alongside his religious dedication to the sport and his talent on the pitch, he was clearly the obvious choice for leading the team into battle. True to Sam’s uniqueness, he approached cricketing like all things with an element of creativity. He customized his cricket whites around his punk rock style: narrowing the legs of the trousers and sowing in patches on to his top.

Sam’s presence when transferred to the stage, combined with his emotional intelligence, resulted in some staggering performances in the Olivier theatre. Due to his ability to amuse, he often played funny roles like “John Durbyfield” in Tess of the D’Urbervilles or “Leigh Hunt” in the Poets. Sam’s portrayal of Leigh Hunt was played to perfection; he played the role with such joy and ease assisted by his fondness for the world of literature and fine wine. Sam played the lead role “Mike” in Steven Berkoff’s “West”; a cockney gangster saga using Shakespearian dialogue and stylised acting. He played the leader of the gang and immediately he transformed into a formidable “cockney nutter”, but with a touch of sensitivity which was maintained throughout the performance. Again it felt very appropriate that he played the leader of the gang, fairly representational of his role in the Bedales community.

The rock show was another annual moment when Sam’s performance skills were in its element. He would take JFP events and the rock show very seriously. As soon I suggested a potential song to perform, he would knuckle down and teach himself the chords on the piano or the guitar, there was never a song too hard. Our band’s repertoire was fairly long, but the most memorable of Sam’s rock performances was in 6.2, when he fronted “Complete control” by the Clash. He really knew the definition of rock’n roll, he strolled on with vivacious energy, exuding attitude and simply looking the part. But nonetheless he wasn’t a nihilist rock’n roller, like most things Sam did it was thought through and contained social commentary. Just before the song he made a vociferous, political announcement which was responded by an enthusiastic reaction from the audience, he carried that level of energy right the way through the song, Joe strummer would have been proud.

Sam was such a diverse character and certainly couldn’t be defined in the school context by a singular reputation; alongside his political, punk inclinations he also had a very literary, romantic side. Sam was a vehement head of the poetry society, always bringing his recent literary interests to the meetings. For Sam the world of literature was an ongoing adventure of discovering new thinkers, writers and poets who helped him in his understanding of the world. Poets that Sam was passionate about and brought along to poetry society meetings included W.H Auden, Percy Shelley, John Cooper Clarke, Alan Ginsberg, DH Lawrence and many others. On one occasion Sam brought a poem which he had written about the “the weir” in Shiplake. Shiplake is a riverside camping community in a picturesque corner of Berkshire frequently visited by George Sinclair. On One of Sam’s trips there he felt inspired to write about the Weir. The Poem was influenced by the style of Alan Ginsberg and gained such popularity amongst the Shiplake residents that it has perpetuated a reputation of Sam as a ‘poet’ in their community and is on display there. Sam was also a fervent member of the Shakespeare society.

To list all Sam’s creative endeavours, ideas and societies at school would be an impossible task. Even now as I write this, I remember other obscure passing things like his organisation which he founded in Block 1 called S.H.A.G (Super hero association gang) and the “Order of the upturned yogurt pot” which we co-ran in block 3 (founded by Tom Venner). Sam’s prodigious charisma had an indelible impact on the community around him. Underneath the surface of this vigorous, animated and vocal man was a huge amount of sensitivity, compassion and kindness. Standing up for the unjustly treated, the underdog and the defenceless became his duty and his business.

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