Friday, 9 August 2013

Feeling the beat (and the heat!) at Cowley Road Carnival

The project's summer of outreach and collaboration with fellow University museums continued last month with the Cowley Road Carnival - a popular event that's become something of an Oxford institution. Here, one of the cross-museums' interns reports:

Under the brilliant sunshine on Sunday 7th July, an estimated 35,000 people took part in the Cowley Road Carnival, either watching the procession, shopping in stalls and participating in activities. Cowley Road itself came alive as locals sat on balconies to watch the procession of schoolchildren and community groups - 600 people in total - dance their way down to Saint Mary and Saint John Church. 

There in the churchyard, “Museum Music Madness” reigned as some 440 children and adults enjoyed taster drumming sessions and made recycled instruments at the Oxford University Museums and Collections (OUMC) tent. The crafts and handling activities were designed and led by the HLF museum education trainees as part of our training across the OUMC. In keeping with the 'green' theme of the carnival, all the instruments were made out of recycled plastic and cardboard kindly donated by museum staff and decorated with old promotional materials. 

Each trainee also worked with artists and a Cowley school group to create costumes and to choreograph dance moves inspired by museum visits for the procession. After our visit to the Museum of Oxford my group from St. Christopher’s School were inspired to build a “Bullnose” Morris car, first produced here in Oxford 100 years ago. By working with the group over 2 months I had a chance to really get to know the kids. Seeing them gain confidence in their new skills as they learned the Charleston and sewed costumes was a wonderful experience. For me, the outpouring of support from the crowds as the kids jived and drove their model car in the procession really summed up the community involvement and sheer fun of the Cowley Road Carnival. 

The museums also got a nice profile boost by being part of BBC Radio Oxford's coverage of the event. PRM Head of Education, Andy McLellan was interviewed and explained why it was important the museums took part, commenting, "It’s everyone’s city and everyone’s museums so hopefully people who come to the carnival today will also come and see us."

See these links for BBC Oxford's coverage and more information on the HLF training programme

Liz Danner, HLF Museum Education Officer Trainee

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