Staff and students at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (QE), Darlington, have come together to celebrate students’ cultures with a joyful Culture Day. The student-led festival saw the College’s Sports Hall transform into a wondrous display of colour and vibrancy as the world’s flags adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling. Students dressed in the traditional clothing of countries of their heritage and contributed delicious, customary food with each stall representing a different nation. As their peers and staff sampled their culinary delights, the students were able to share stories of their cultures and introduce everybody to their customs, including etiquette and manners. There was also the opportunity to participate in Bollywood dancing with local teacher, Daksha Asher, and her student, Alisha, providing a masterclass in the style which has captivated audiences across the globe. Daksha, who has been teaching Bollywood dancing since 1994, was thrilled with the enthusiasm shown by staff and students. She comments: ‘It was really exciting to be at the College as you could see the creativity within the students and I loved to see their laugher. So many students were willing to get involved which was brilliant. More and more people are taking up Bollywood dancing as a 20-minute session is the equivalent of an hour’s workout in the gym.’

First year student, Ruva Kanonge, who studies A Level Psychology, Sociology and Health and Social Care at QE, brought in the Zimbabwean drink, Mazoe, and Maputi, a traditional maize snack. The 18-year-old from Thornaby says: ‘Everybody in Zimbabwe drinks Mazoe, it is incredibly popular! Culture Day has been a really good event which has helped to educate people about different cultures.’ Naomi Teklu, who is in her second year and studying Biology, English Literature, Maths and Extended Project, adds: ‘The event went very well. Culture Day was a first for the College and it is great that so many people came.’ 18-year-old Naomi from Stockton-on-Tees introduced everybody to Himbasha, a sweet Ethiopian celebration bread, and Ethiopian coffee which is renowned for its exquisite beans. 16-year-old Mili Matalau, from Catterick Garrison, recognises the significance of celebrations such as Culture Day. Enrolled on A Level Business, Economics and Philosophy, she explains: ‘Culture Day was really important to me as when I was at school, there weren’t many cultures represented. The festival has meant a lot to us as we were able to share our cultures and show everybody what they mean to us.’ Mili’s food of choice to bring to the event was the dessert, Lamington, which goes down a treat in Fiji.

Nancy Wall, Student Services Co-ordinator at QE, who helped the students to organise Culture Day, concludes: ‘It truly was a wonderful celebration of our students’ heritages and a fantastic way to end the half term. The students were delighted to introduce others to their cultures and every person who attended the event learnt something new. The Sports Hall was filled with music, laugher and joy, and it was a pleasure to see. I am so proud of everyone involved in putting together the festival, it was a first for the College and will undoubtedly become an annual tradition.’