A FESTIVAL featuring TV history expert Mary Beard will be held to launch a community classics centre at a school in Oxford.

The East Oxford Community Classics Centre, run by the Iris Project with Oxford University, will provide a learning venue at Cheney School, Headington, for people of all ages to attend events, workshops, lessons and exhibitions.

Dr Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, will open the centre on Thursday, October 24, after a two-hour classics festival giving residents the chance to sample Roman and Greek-style food and follow a Minotaur trail.

There will also be face painting, drama performances and a fancy dress competition where people are encouraged to dress as a character from Greek or Roman history.

The Iris Project was first set up by Oxford University classics graduate Lorna Robinson in 2006.

It uses storytelling and myths to teach the ancient language and last month won the 2013 European Language Label, which recognises new initiatives in the field of teaching and learning languages.

But until now the project has lacked a base to operate from.

Dr Robinson said: “It’s really exciting to finally have a base for the centre.

“We have received many kind donations of books, replica and real artefacts and it seemed a great shame that these items were not housed somewhere, to be used and enjoyed by people.”

Dr Robinson added: “Oxford is a city well-known for its magnificent buildings and museums, but there are many children and adults in the community who have never been to them. We felt there was a need for a centre which would be a place where people could feel comfortable visiting and taking part, as well as being a stepping stone to encouraging people to visit other learning centres and museums.”

Cheney pupil Brighty Varugheskakkunnathu said: “Learning about the past, helps you understand the world today.”

The eye-catching centre, which has been painted with a combination of scenes from around Oxford city and from classical stories, has been opened at Cheney School because it is the only secondary state school in the city offering Latin on the curriculum.

It will be open to all members of the public.

Workshops begin at the centre on Tuesday and run every day apart from Saturdays.

They include beginners’ classes for children and adults in Latin and Ancient Greek, workshops on mythical beasts and classical debating.

The courses are run by Dr Robinson and nine students from Oxford University. All regular sessions require booking except the Sunday “drop-in” session.

For further information, visit irisproject.org.uk