IN MEMORIUM 3RD NOVEMBER 1949 - 1ST AUGUST 2013
Most of us remember the teachers who inspired us during our school days, and the death of Gill Goswell, who recently lost her long and brave battle against cancer, will cause many to reflect on the role great teachers play in shaping lives.
Gill taught in Dorking for 38 years, initially at The Archbishop Langton School in Beare Green before moving into Dorking when secondary education in the town was reorganised in 1976. Here began her long and hugely successful career at The Ashcombe School. A former colleague remembers: "I recall our arrival at The Ashcombe in 1976 and Gill saying, 'we're at a cutting edge comprehensive now, so it calls for a big show. We'll show em!' That led to Zigger Zagger with a massive cast performing on a football terrace at the back of the hall. Many students wanted more and Gill was soon leading the Operama Workshop where pupils produced their own drama, music and poetry. The youthful Evan Davis, now of the BBC's Today programme and Nick Perry, now writing for Radio 4, both featured in a workshop musical based on the coming together of the schools that became The Ashcombe.
Zigger Zagger was to be the first of thirty two major productions staged by Gill. The success of her shows was based on two principles: each had to have a cast of hundreds, and everyone involved had to pay attention to detail. Gill's approach was to always include everyone, regardless of talent and she added massive value to the education outside of the classroom of all of those involved. Several of Gill's proteges continue to appear regularly on radio, TV and in the West End, and thousands more left school with an inner confidence having been 'encouraged' to overcome stage fright by the Mighty Miss G!
Tim Howe, well known on the Surrey music scene, commented: "I was fortunate enough to get involved in Miss Goswell's rock operas when I joined Ashcombe in the late 70s. I will be eternally grateful for the encouragement she gave me in getting my first band 'The Jerks' off the ground and for not dismissing somebody who didn't want to follow a regular career path."
Evan Davis, the well-known presenter of Dragon's Den said: "Gill was one of those teachers whose influence stays with you for years beyond your time at school. She made many of us feel grown up and important and in doing so, gave us the confidence to perform on stage year after year. I know that helped to shape my career, and those of many others. Equally inspiring was her boundless energy and enthusiasm which encouraged generations of youngsters to get up and get involved in something constructive and
exciting." He continued: "She was there right at the launch of The Ashcombe School. It was a nervous time and she did much to shape the spirit of the new school, breaking down the natural divisions of the three pre-existing schools in the process. I genuinely don't think that the school would have developed as successfully as it has done without her."
Although Gill's autumn productions were voluntary, no student at The Ashcombe escaped the experience of performing live. Every summer during Activites Week the whole of Year 8 was tasked with performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to parents after just a week of rehearsals. Every year they said it was impossible but the youngsters proved, year on year, that it was.
All this was, of course, on top of Gill's skill as an outstanding teacher of drama. Her excellence in the classroom was acknowledged when she was runner up in the prestigious Teacher of the Year Award in 2003. All those who appreciated Gill's work and commitment knew that she was unlucky not to have taken the ultimate accolade.
A former colleague wrote: "She was an extraordinary person, fabulous teacher and a softy underneath her formidable character." Another remarked: "Gill will be much missed and will be remembered with affection by all who knew her especially those who worked with her, were taught by her or took part in her amazing theatrical productions. She had the skills to get the very best out of children of all abilities and this was important as it very much reflects the school's ethos. She was brilliant at giving so many children the opportunity to 'shine' and develop their self-confidence outside the conventional learning environment."
She has created so many memories for so many people; and to share in these, the Ashcombe School and her many friends are planning a celebration of her life in the autumn term. Just like her many shows, it will have a cast of thousands!