Meeting of cultures at youth arts event

Back, from left, Mesh team members Mason Thomas-Downes, 15, Ryan Clune, 15, and Taair Anna Shatz, 17. Front, from left: Jordan Richardson, 16, Matilda Sloley, 17, and Yasmin Sidhwa of Pegasus

Back, from left, Mesh team members Mason Thomas-Downes, 15, Ryan Clune, 15, and Taair Anna Shatz, 17. Front, from left: Jordan Richardson, 16, Matilda Sloley, 17, and Yasmin Sidhwa of Pegasus Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering East Oxford and Cowley. Call me on (01865) 425430

HUNDREDS of young people from across the world got a warm welcome from Oxford teenagers at the city’s third international youth arts festival.

A group from Pegasus Theatre in Magdalen Road, East Oxford, organised the 10-day Mesh 2014 festival, which began yesterday.

A team of 20 teenagers aged between 15 and 18 has been planning the event since September, and visitors have arrived from Russia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, France, Croatia and Germany.

Festival planning committee member Matilda Sloley joined this year’s committee after helping to prepare for the previous two festivals.

She said: “The last few weeks have been really exciting, seeing it all come together and conquering the challenges we have faced.

“It’s been tricky to come to every single meeting because of other commitments like school.”

The 17-year-old, who lives off Abingdon Road, is a pupil at the Cherwell School in Marston Ferry Road.

She added: “We have not raised as much money as we hoped to.

“It’s difficult because in previous years it’s been easier to get funding from the British Council (the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations) and Oxfordshire County Council, but I guess in these times it’s harder to get the money.”

The committee needed to raise £61,000 to feed, accommodate and provide travel passes for the international visitors. But despite fundraising efforts, the team is still short of about £7,000.

Festival director Yasmin Sidhwa said: “The lack of funding is having a massive effect on Pegasus and what Pegasus is able to do.

“We are not getting downhear-ted, we are just firefighting because we are determined to make this a brilliant success – but it’s making things 20 times harder.”

While more time was volunteered to the project, the committee’s administration budget was cut due to lack of funds.

Committee members also had to adapt original plans and request more sponsorship from businesses.

Teenagers have been working on publicity, organising workshops and debates, and inviting companies to the festival.

The arts celebration will include performances staged by international visitors at Pegasus Theatre and at the North Wall Arts Centre off Banbury Road.

The festival will finish with a street parade and grand finale at Oxford Town Hall on Friday, August 1, with young people joining to perform a modern adaptation of the Old English epic poem Beowulf.

Ms Sidhwa said: “It’s about these young people having a voice, showing other countries what they can do and bringing other young people to us.”

Blackbird Leys committee member Jordan Richardson, 15, a pupil at the Oxford Academy, said: “Mesh opens your mind to new ideas and new things – it’s a big cultural exchange.”

For more information visit pegasustheatre.org.uk/mesh

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