The galleries of the Ashmolean Museum are usually hushed places where visitors gaze in reverence at treasures from around the globe.
All this weekend more of the planet’s cultural riches are celebrated – albeit in far livelier surroundings.
For the third year running the museum is hosting the One World Festival – a two day celebration of international culture and different faiths, designed to bring us all closer together.
A free programme of activities for all ages takes place in the museum atrium and around the building, inspired and led by communities represented here in Oxfordshire and embracing the theme of ‘welcome’.
Spaces will be transformed into stage sets and studios showcasing music, dance, fashion, poetry, storytelling, games, workshops, talks, arts and crafts. Visitors can expect everything from a Chinese lion dance workshop and Buddhist meditation, to Bollywood dancing, Quaker worship, Nepalese drumming and Sikh turban tying.
There will be a folklore fashion show curated by Iraqi-born Dhamyaa Abbas, stories about the Christian season of Advent, tales from the Jewish Torah and tips on how to brush up your Mah Jong board game skills.
Music will come from the Senegalese kora, Oxford Community Gospel Choir, DJ Euton Daley’s laidback lounge set and Bhajan chanting from the Oxford Hindu Temple performers.
The Lecture Theatre will be decorated in globes created with community groups through arts and music collective The Harmony Project, and on Sunday plays host to an interfaith panel discussion on hospitality and how it varies across cultures with leaders from the county’s Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Baha’i communities. The Ancient World galleries will provide a backdrop for Wheatley Primary School Choir’s songs of world peace and Fusion Arts drawing and collage workshops.
The event was launched and still organised by Imam Monawar Hussain. Monawar is Imam of Eton College and of the Oxford University Hospitals and founder of The Oxford Foundation, which seeks to bring different groups together to combat far right extremism and promote peace and understanding through creating shared spaces.
He said: “One World Festival began three years ago to bring the county’s communities together to celebrate each other’s cultures.
“Shared spaces are created for social cohesion and for people to understand each other with integrity. Each community comes with something they want to share. This celebrates the richness of each culture and is for people from the whole county.”
For the first time, the Ashmolean forecourt will become a One World Food Market with vegetarian treats from around the world.
“There truly is something for everyone this year,” says the Ashmolean’s Sarah Holland.
“It is a festival that takes great pride in recognising the amazing talent we have in Oxfordshire, providing a platform to showcase diversity, share experiences and applaud our differences – presented in an open and accessible for all environment.”
One World Festival is at the Ashmolean all weekend. It runs from midday-4pm and starts with the Islamic Call to Prayer