Big World, Larger Diversity

This was a commissioned review I did of an event run by my university about dioversity for the Humanities Hallows blog. A link to this is here:

As people rushed in from the cold November weather outside, shedding hats and scarves, they were warmly greeted by a diverse array of people, music, and entertainment from all corners of the world (I wonder if it’s any warmer there). Oh, and a giant luminous globe.

Attendees were greeted by the vibrant colours of a display of flags from around the world covering the surrounding balconies and stairways, as well as blue balloons adorned with green continents. These motifs embodied the event’s aims, which organiser Helen Malarky explained: “The main messages are that globalisation and internationalisation are things that affect us all, and that affect every part of the University – research, staff, students, our relationship with the world and with the public”. The event showcased all that this diverse culture has to offer the individual; be this skills or awareness that will then go on to enrich the lives of them and those around them.

The enchanting atmosphere invoked excitement around the idea of global citizenship. Researcher Dr Alicia Prowse reflected: “I think the event is fantastic. There are a lot of people becoming interested, a lot of students drifting downstairs and asking ‘What’s this?’. There’s a nice sense of excitement and interest. I’m delighted, personally”.

The buzz of chatter was masked by lively and fascinating music and dances from different cultures performed live on stage: performances from Yan Mei Wu playing the zither, the WAST choir, Luciano Gerber, and dances from Mexico and China. In the crowds, there was a mixture of ethnicities, ages and genders, even a herd of primary school children! So there was something familiar and something different for everyone, including a stand for the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, as well as free henna and sweets from around the world – now who could resist that?

The mixed cultural aspects were met with enthusiasm from all those taking part: Amy Yankun Zhu, an MMU student and attendee, said the event was “very good, because you learn about other cultures”. She particularly liked the language stands, such as the Mother Tongue Other Tongue stand, as she reflected: “learning a language isn’t just learning a language, it’s learning about that culture too”. MMU students helping with the event, David Heffer and Fathiya Osman, also related that: “we’ve been looking forward to working at this event because there’s so much to do here, so many things for people to enjoy”.

Not least of which were talks by researchers Charlotte Page, and previously mentioned Dr Alicia Prowse, on their findings of the Global Futures project and a thought provoking talk by Professor Pnina Werbner of Keele University, who spoke about “The Tragedy of Global Citizenship”.

The grand finale of the day was an inspirational talk from the Dean of Manchester Cathedral, The Very Revd Rogers Govender, on his experiences as an immigrant. He also presented an award ceremony for the students of the Global Citizens: Global Futures project with certificates for their dedicated work. Charlotte Page, research assistant to the project, explained how this enhances student experience: “It gives students recognition for their engagement in community issues, whether that be the MMU community, Manchester community or communities further afield. It also provides an opportunity for students to explore an issue of global significance that interests them, such as climate change”.

At the end of the day, students and staff alike all donned their hats and scarves once again to brave the cold Manchester air. However, this time with a head full of all the different and fantastic things diverse cultures can bring. Oh, and a giant luminous globe.

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