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Henry Readhead




The world’s Oldest Continuous Democratic School Turns 100! (and 1!)  Suffolk, England, UK. 5-10th August 2022

Who would have thought that freedom, equality, democracy, non-compulsion and the overall prioritising of children’s happiness and wellbeing over their academic achievements would have survived the rigidity of our educational system for over a century? 

Yet, here we are, against all odds, not just surviving but thriving! We are celebrating 100 years of Summerhill School and the inspirations A.S.Neill has given the world, sending out a loud message that “being on the side of the child” should be the first tenet of our society!

In this historic moment, we are reaching out to all people who share similar values within education, childrearing and their communities and we are inviting you all to the Summerhill Festival of Childhood to have fun, connect, share ideas, co-create, celebrate and band together for a more humane and sustainable future for us all.

This family-friendly event will take place in the heart of the beautiful English countryside, within walking distance from Summerhill School itself! 

There will be things for the children to take part in and space to run around….

Individuals, initiatives and organisations from all over the world will be delivering talks, performances, concerts, workshops and so much more within a relaxed, warm and inspiring atmosphere. UNESCO, IDEC 2022, Freedom to Learn Forum, PARS and Project Defy have already confirmed their participation at the festival. 

Day visitors most welcome!

For more information and tickets please check –


World’s Oldest Continuous Democratic School Turns 100!

Suffolk, England, UK. 5-10th August 2022. 

This festival will be a community and family event. Celebrating 100 years of Summerhill School and the inspirations A.S.Neill has given the world, this exciting, fun event is all about childhood, children’s rights, freedom of the individual, responsibility to community and free play.

What to expect? From talks by inspirational education pioneers and innovators to DJs, comedy, bands, collaborative art projects and fun activities for the young and young at heart, there’ll be
something for everyone at the Summerhill Festival of Childhood. Plans are in place to welcome several thousand British and international families, educators and innovators to the festival at Peakhill Farm, Theberton, Suffolk, where they can reminisce, network, and share ideas, experiences and practices celebrating childhood.
Summerhill School is internationally renowned for its promotion of emotional sincerity as an essential condition for social emotional development and a more humane world. A.S. Neill founded the school in 1921 in Dresden, Germany as part of the international Neue Schule. By 1923, Neill had moved to the town of Lyme Regis in the south of England, to a house called Summerhill. In 1927, Neill moved the school to the present site at Leiston, Suffolk, taking the name of Summerhill with him.
During his lifetime, Neill published several books about life and work at Summerhill including Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood (1960). It became an instant bestseller and a classic
volume of education for an entire generation.

Summerhill is a real place, not a utopia. Living in a community of around 100 people is not always easy. Everybody is learning about themselves…
For many Summerhill pupils it becomes the most meaningful experience in their lives.

Zoë Neill Readhead, Principal, Summerhill

Keynote speakers will be announced closer to the date.


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Notes to Editor
Press kit. All the information for journalists:

Summerhill festival website

Summerhill centenary website.

School website:

Festival Facebook page:

Festival Twitter:

Festival Instagram:

Festival YouTube Channel:

Press Contacts

Additional information about Democratic and Self Directed Education

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education
European Democratic Education Community
International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC)
International Democratic Education Network (IDEN) (AERO)




The Summerhill Festival of Childhood is a community and family-friendly event that will bring together many exciting projects, collaborations, workshops, presentations and performances based on art, craft, educational and child rearing approaches, psychology, sustainability, community and children’s rights for the participants. It will also have an international conference approach and will facilitate seminars, talks and focus group discussions.
Due to the global pandemic we meet online for 2021 and in person in 2022.

Our free registration online event will include the International Democratic Education Conference 2021 which we are proud to host. IDEC2021 is the annual meeting of the global Democratic Education community and has been organised by schools or relative organisations from various parts of the world for more than 25 years. We are also being joined by many people and organisations from all over the world and our community continues to grow every day.

Our plans for the online event include transmission of content via four channels, 24 hours a day for 6 -almost full- days in various languages. Some of the sessions will be scheduled but we also offer plenty of open space for whoever wishes to organise their own session. In addition a “world cafe” space will be available for every participant to have informal discussions if they choose. We plan to record as many of the lectures and workshops as possible so that we can stream them in different time zones in order to give the opportunity to everyone to enjoy as much of the programme as possible. 

Our vision:
Celebrating 100 years of Summerhill School and the inspirations A.S.Neill has given the world.
Celebrating childhood as a critical period of time for all of us and for the future of humanity.

Our mission:
To strengthen the sense of unity amongst organisations and individuals who are promoting and actively working towards positive change within education, childrearing and community.

To maximise their global impact by functioning as an incubator and accelerator of future collaborations, partnerships, alliances and movements for a more humane and sustainable future for us all.

Our values:
Our aim is to celebrate equality, children’s rights, creativity, well being, relieving pressures from childhood and embracing the values of:
Individuality. Celebrating uniqueness, self-awareness, self-regulation and self-direction.
Play. Celebrating the importance of free, pure and uninterrupted play.
Freedom not licence. Celebrating unconditional acceptance deriving from equality and the right to be oneself without infringing on other people’s freedom.
Community. Celebrating the capacity of inclusive and supportive communities to foster personal and social development, sustainability and healthy relationships towards societal change.
Emotional sincerity. Celebrating emotional honesty as an essential condition for social emotional development and a more humane world.

The fundraising campaign

To stay true to our values and principles, we are organising our online festival to be free registration so that we give everyone the opportunity to participate. A large amount of the preparation and the realisation of our online event is based on the work of our amazing volunteers.
Still we have to cover the costs of the technical part (communication platforms, web design, technical support before, during and after the event), the promotion part and the copyright fees for the films we will be screening.
We are organising this reward based fundraising campaign to give you the opportunity to support us to make this wonderful online festival a reality, and get some lovely prizes whilst doing it. 

We are offering a variety of perks from Summerhill itself, the festival, IDEC and friends, all of which contributing to support the event and to give you something lovely or a memory to treasure for your kind support. 

We chose natural and environmentally friendly materials and plastic free packages while supporting small businesses and independent young artists. 

Please share our campaign far and wide even if you can’t afford to support us financially. Spreading the word will give the opportunity to more people to participate in the festival. 


During the online festival, we will be offering a special discount for tickets to our in-person festival in August 2022. This offer will run from 29th September to 7th October 2021. The discount will be 15% off the original price of all ticket options. In addition, the option to pay in six installments will be available, please check the booking options here: or contact 


We thank you warmly for your support and hope to see you during both our online and in person festival. Feel free to contact us:


For more information visit:

Early Bird Tickets will be available on 11th of December 2020