Building on the success of last year’s inaugural event, Culture Day 2023 was a spectacular showcase of the vibrant diversity of our school community. The Withington community once again made every effort to celebrate one another’s cultures and be united in our differences.
The aim of Culture Day was for pupils to express their cultural identity, learn more about their own, each other’s and wider world cultures and develop their cultural competency. Culture Day was an event in our personal development and wellbeing initiative, Feel Fab Feb, and it again also formed part of the Muslim Arts and Cultures Festival (MACFest) – a local event that spans international borders to celebrate Muslim heritage.
The day began with a high-energy assembly led by two Year 12 pupils who transported the audience around the world on WGS Airlines Flight 1890. With each stop came a procession of pupils and staff from their home countries including Portugal, Ukraine, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa, Iraq and Israel. The assembly concluded with a whole school sing-along of ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman. Pupils sat in their Houses, striving to sing their lines with the greatest enthusiasm.
The focus on exploring cultures from around the world didn’t stop there as throughout the day lessons were centred on investigating global practices, beliefs, and histories. In Art, Year 7 explored Islamic patterns and painted their own mosaic designs; Year 8 pupils experimented with the Peruvian tradition of dying wool with natural products such as turmeric or blueberries; and Year 9 investigated headwear from around the world.
All year groups explored Augusto Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed with a focus on Forum Theatre in their Drama lessons, whilst in English, pupils took part in an ‘interactive museum’ event and moved around the classroom doing different activities and learning about poetry and poets from different cultures. In Design Technology, Years 7, 8 and 9 researched designers from every corner of the world and produced a new product in the style of the designer which they presented to their peers.
In History, Year 8 examined the Algonquian peoples and explored British colonialism from the perspective of native Americans. Year 12 looked at the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century and Year 13 historians also explored this period but through the lens of popular literature. In Biology, all year groups analysed practices of traditional medicine and modern medicine. Looking at how modern medicines are often derived from cultural/traditional ones and looking at which of these treatments are effective.
In Religious Studies, Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils compared the national census data to a Withington questionnaire that asked pupils to identify their ethnicity and religion; GCSE pupils explored the reasons behind the increase in secularisation and A Level Philosophy and Theology pupils looked at Queer Theology.
There were also lots of extra-curricular opportunities for pupils such as henna art, home language taster sessions, East meets West dancing, African drumming and food stalls from around the world at lunchtime. We were joined by special guests, Mrs Qaisra Shahraz MBE, coordinator of the Muslim Arts and Cultures Festival, and Hanane El Hadioui who spent the day visiting classrooms and hearing the discussions and findings our pupils made on that day.
Our pupils on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team and School Council played a vital role in bringing Culture Day to fruition and ensuring it aligned with the needs of our pupils. The sentiment towards Culture Day was wholly positive with many pupils expressing that it is the day they look forward to the most
Pupils comments also include:
“I appreciate the opportunity to openly ask my friends questions about their cultures and learn more about what makes them, them.”
“Culture Day brought us together as a community, though we are all different we came together.”
“I was able to make friends in different year groups with whom I share my culture. I didn’t know them before, but seeing them in their cultural dress, we spoke to one another.”
“I really enjoyed my Geography lesson as we learnt about the diverse backgrounds and heritage of the people in our class. We discussed the definition of identity and what things shape someone’s identity.”
Ms Jen Baylis, Deputy Head Pastoral, said: “We were delighted to work with pupils to design and implement such a positive celebration and reflection on the complexity and joy of cultural identities within our school community. One of the most important skills our young people will need as they become tomorrow’s leaders is cultural competence and an understanding and belief in the power and importance of diversity and inclusion. This is, of course, a key strand of school life throughout the year but we all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to shine a particular spotlight on cultural understanding through this special day.”