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Protest against Eton-educated Damian Lewis switching on state school’s anniversary laser show

PUBLISHED: 14:01 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 18:39 26 January 2016

Acland Burghley headteacher Nicholas John defends the choice of celebrity. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Acland Burghley headteacher Nicholas John defends the choice of celebrity. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A secondary school will be lit up with lasers to celebrate its 50th anniversary tomorrow – but not everybody is happy with the plans for a mini Lumiere London festival.

There is controversy about the school choosing Eton-educated Damian Lewis to switch on the lights. Picture: PAThere is controversy about the school choosing Eton-educated Damian Lewis to switch on the lights. Picture: PA

The Brutalist facade of Acland Burghley School in Burghley Road, Tufnell Park, is set to dazzle crowds with a light show partly designed by pupils, with the help of lighting experts.

It comes on the heels of the recent Lumiere London spectacular, which saw landmarks illuminated and neon art installations pop up across the capital.

Acland Burghley’s laser show will be switched on by former Homeland actor and Tufnell Park resident Damian Lewis at 7pm – but the state school’s choice of celebrity has caused alarm among a group of former pupils.

Taking objection to a Eton-educated actor being asked to take part in the celebrations, they have launched a petition calling on the school to invite one of its renowned former pupils, such as pop singer Ms Dynamite, to switch on the lights instead.

Campaign leader and City University senior sociology lecturer, Rachel Cohen, wrote on the petition: “Damian Lewis, was educated at Eton a school that, more than any other, represents the reproduction of privilege and inequality in the UK.

“We have nothing against him as an actor or local resident, but he is a wholly inappropriate choice for this celebration of a wonderful local comprehensive school.”

More than 80 people have signed the petition so far. A social media campaign using the hashtag #RealBurghley has also been launched, asking people to tweet what they believe best represents the school.

But headteacher Nicholas John defended the choice of celebrity. He said: “Damian has been very generous with his time. We are thrilled because he is a local person and this is a community school, and this event is about the whole community.”

He added: “We are grateful when anyone from any background comes in, if they have something of educational value to offer.”

The free show is organised by lighting company Urban Electric, the director of which is a parent at the school.

It will transform the grey building, which was nearly rebuilt in 2010, with an array of colours.

The building’s lead architect, Stanley Amis, now 92, cannot attend the event but fully supports the show.

He said: “I am very glad to hear of the plans to bring new life to the school after 50 years.

“The construction of the school was a most exciting project to have been involved with and I was extremely proud to have played a part in its creation.”

The mini festival begins an 18-month programme of 50th anniversary celebrations at the school. Plans include refurbishing the school’s science laboratories, revamping the theatre, and creating state-of-the-art classrooms.

The laser show begins at 6.30pm tomorrow and continue until 8.30pm. Live dance and music performances by pupils will entertain crowds.

Damian Lewis’ agent has been contacted for comment.


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