DDE has been awarded 2 grants, in 2017 and 2019, to celebrate with different communities in Exeter. The project brings people together, to eat and laugh, talk and dance, remembering the rich value of communal activities, sidelined by busy modern life.
In 2017, we worked closely with communities and DDE’s Cultural Champions, to celebrate religious and cultural festivals: Polish Easter, Italian May Festival, Muslim Eid at the Mosque and Hindu Navratri (the dance festival).
In 2019, we are celebrating International Mother Language Day with the Bangladeshi community; Spanish Fiesta ; and Korean Chuseok Harvest Moon Festival.
Each celebration has 2 parts: a community workshop to learn about the cultures, crafts, languages, dance and food; and a festival including a feast of the food from that culture and community. We also run learning sessions in local schools.
The celebrations also provide opportunities for other groups to take part, for example Exeter University’s Italian and Polish student societies; the 307 Squadron Project, being led by local Polish heritage revivalists; the Hindu temple community; the Korean church congregation based at the Mint Methodist Church; the Mosque; students from the University’s Department of Islamic Studies and Exeter College; and members of Exeter’s community.
The project provides a chance to meet new people; to learn about and share in other cultures. We explore heritage and traditions, ask questions and share our stories with one another. We learn new crafts and skills and how to cook delicious dishes.
Celebrate Exeter Diver-City is about coming together, as people seek to pull us apart, honouring people’s different identities and reaffirming Exeter’s identity as a city of welcome and inclusivity.
Celebrate! Eid and Islamic Culture and Traditions
DDE celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr which takes place after the fasting month of Ramadan. We were honoured to be invited in to the Exeter Mosque and hold both our community celebrations there. We ran a workshop on the 2nd July where we were taught how to make delicious food called Boulani’s from Afghanistan, Samosas from Bangladesh and mammul biscuits from Syrian. We also had the opportunity to learn some Arabic language and work with traditional henna designs.
Here are some photos of the event …
On the final celebration event we had an array of artefacts to look at from the various Islamic countries ranging from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, Libya and Syria. It really made us realise how multicultural and international a place the Exeter mosque is! We also had an opportunity to try our hand at henna designs, learn some basic Arabic phrases, dress up in various clothes from Saris to Charva Chemises, talk about local and global herbs with an activity offered by Refugee Support Devon, taste the variety of spiced coffee, find out where we all were from in the world and complete a questionnaire on Islam. and hear a story about the first English man to have gone to Mecca who was originally from Exeter.
We heard from the Imam at the mosque about the significance of Eid, learn a traditional Bangaladeshi greeting and were visited by the Lord Mayor of Exeter Lesley Robson and heard a story from the telling Our Stories Project by Ghee Bowman about the first English man to have gone to Mecca who was originally from Exeter. The food, oh the food was absolutely amazing, a feast of about 40 different dishes from around the World.
Here are some photos of the final celebration …
As part of the project aims we will have an Islamic Cultural Champion offer 1 day each in a primary and secondary school in the next academic year. We feel in the current climate education in schools around what is Islam and the meeting of students with an Islamic Cultural Champion can offer an invaluable opportunity to forge new relationships and have open questions, curiousities satisfied and dialogue which is another aim of this project.
Celebrate Polish Easter!
DDE had some great celebrations both on the 25th March and 2nd April when they celebrated and learnt about Polish Easter as part of the year long project Celebrate! Exeter’s Diver-city.
In March, the first community workshop was held in St Thomas. Over 120 adults and 50 children all came together to share in Polish culture and food and spend time together. People tried out various activities, including making Pierogi (Polish dumplings), singing some folk songs, and learning some Polish language. Delicious food was kindly provided by local businesses Maja Deli and the Polish Bread Bakery.
On Sunday 2nd April, we held a further celebration afternoon and community feast. All were welcome and people from different backgrounds, ages and faiths all came together to learn more about Polish culture and the local Exeter Polish community.
Here are some more photos of the event …
Activities included: traditional Polish Easter egg painting called Pisanki, global games, a ‘human library where we could meet others and hear their stories, Yiddish songs and music and various children’s activities. We finished with a huge Polish feast of again very generously donated food from the local delicatessen Maja and of course wonderful dishes of of regional Polish food cooked for us by the local Polish community.
Polish community lead Aga Kowlaska, said that “Both events were fantastic! It was great to have an opportunity for us Poles to get together, to share our culture, traditions and stories with other members of the Exeter community. We did not realise people were so interested in us. We were expecting about 30 people to the workshops and ended up with over 120 adults and 50 children. Just Brilliant!
Project Coordinator Sandhya Dave expressed “how the celebrations on both days were so heart-warming. It was a simple coming together of different communities who are interested in each others’ lives and want to hear each others’ stories. Sadly racism does exist in Exeter, as well as a fear of strangers (xenophobia). Our year long project seeks to restate how the city of Exeter is and always has been a welcoming and inclusive city, in order to challenge the narrative of making people into the ‘Other’. Both these celebrations clearly showed how there is a need for this project.