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Ashford College was transformed into a feast for the senses on Wednesday, March 23, as it hosted a Celebration of Cultures.
Representatives of cultures around the world came down to Ashford to show off their food, dances and music to enthusiastic students. Belly dancing, steel pan drumming and even haka workshops were on display with students as well as staff getting involved in the festivities.
The College’s main atrium was flooded with the smell of different cuisines as free samples of food from restaurants such as Smoking Drum Caribbean, Thai Kitchen, Il Pakkero and Everest Inn were handed out, attracting long queues of hungry onlookers.
Sol Cooper, whose haka demonstrations and workshops proved particularly popular, said he was glad to have been invited to inform students about the Māori culture.
The owner of Toa Haka UK said: “The College got in touch to ask if I could be here to represent New Zealand culture, and I was more than happy to do so.
“It was great! The students are all young and going through a tough time in the world right now, so I didn’t expect there to be too many people getting involved. But I was surprised by how many got involved, including staff members, and those that took part all seemed to really enjoy themselves.”
Alongside restaurants coming in to let students try their food, many dishes from across the world were also created by the College’s Catering students under the guidance of the department’s Programme Director Jackie Apps.
The Catering team also helped those learning English at the College (ESOL students) to come up with their own recipe book, which was produced and sold during the event to raise money for the Kent Refugee Action Network.
Catering students were also offered work experience and jobs at the participating restaurants, meaning the event was an opportunity to further the careers of students and boost Ashford’s economy.
The idea for a Celebration of Cultures – one which was taken up by every EKC Group College – originally came from Ashford College’s Student Union President Chandrika Narayanan.
After the successful event, she said: “We just wanted to promote the inclusion, equality and diversity in the Colleges, and we thought a Celebration of Cultures event would be a fantastic way to do that and bring people together.
“All the Colleges were really forthcoming with their support for the concept.”
She added: “Today was amazing, I didn’t expect the turnout would be as good as it was. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who got involved, I’m really appreciative of the effort that’s gone into this.
“A special thank you to our Student Experience Officer, Megan Waller, and Jo Brown, our College Services Manager, as they really helped make this all possible.
"This event will be one that I cherish and remember it's one of the best things I've been involved in. I am so proud of the way it turned out. It was better than I envisioned it to be and the student participation for this was amazing!"