Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Cowley Road Carnival

On Sunday Cowley Road hosted their annual Carnival to celebrate cultural diversity. What a relief! There are times (long periods) where you feel, as an Oxford student (or perhaps it has more to do with being a PhD student?), that you're the only type of person on the planet. You meet so many people from different countries here, sure, but several common traits dominate: high achiever, cashing in on their silver spoon or cultural capital (in whatever form it came in) while seeking to save or change the world, happy to enjoy parties with olives and elderflower water in the meantime. (I am just waiting for someone to bring out some homemade olive or elderflower ice-cream at one of these Oxford dinner parties!)

The town versus gown phenomenon (where there are two distinct communities in a University town) is joked about only because it's true and discomforting. One of my friends lamented that Oxford is becoming more 'Cornmarket' (a paved, pedestrian street lined with franchised food and retail shops, where groups of young locals gather and play music from their mobile phones, put dummies in their babies' mouths and shriek and push each other) than 'Turl street' (the quieter, parallel street for students to ride down, past a few old-fashioned tailors, barbers, wine bars and the flank of a pretty, sandstone church where a rose vine grows).

During the Carnival, you're no longer an Oxford student, you're just someone who happens to live in Oxford, along with a bunch of other people - from India, Pakistan, Poland, the Caribbean and Africa, and even white folk who are (brace yourselves) NOT Oxford students! There are many reasons to be there: to march in the midday procession either for a specific cause or to simply express diversity and creativity (with rainbow butterfly wings or kangaroo spring-legs), to bop in front of the reggae tent whilst enjoying the sweet smells of roasting corn from the bbqs, to enjoy the rustic, folky rock bands (including my friends' band, Stornoway), to join the groups of unofficial bhangra dancers outside the 'Asian' restaurants, to watch the local break dancing, belly dancing, ballet or Alabanian folk dancing talent, to have a beer with friends.

It's nice to get outside yourself for a while.

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