What do Lord Ganesha, moon cakes, winnowing baskets, hand-stitched tablecloths and dried fish have in common? They were all among a host of exotic items explored by pupils at New Hall School, Chelmsford, this week as part of their International Culture Day.

New Hall Culture day

The brainchild of Sixth Form student, Tianna Yagnik, at the school, International Culture Day was conceived as a celebration of the diversity of pupils in the Preparatory Divisions at New Hall.

Colourful interactive displays, created by parents representing their cultural heritage, gave pupils an insight into a variety of traditions from China, Kenya, Iceland, Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Slovakia, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Many pupils also dressed in clothing from countries around the world.

Visiting India, pupils learned about festivals, henna tattoos and wedding jewellery as well as being treated to a dance from Aadhya Shree. In China, they practised brush lettering and making traditional moon cakes from moulding material.

New Hall Culture day
At the India Display

There was an opportunity to learn Slovakian and Italian phrases and to be transported to the beaches, landscapes and spices of Sri Lanka. In Kenya, the children could try a traditional carved pillow, wear beaded headdresses, bang drums and carry a basket on their head.

Traditional Maori tools and weapons were objects of great interest and, dressed in Dutch national costume, one parent enthralled children with tales of cycling, clogs and canals. Packets of dried fish – an Icelandic delicacy – received predictable reactions of surprise.

Led by Tianna and our Head Girl Felicity, a group of New Hall Sixth Formers, many of whom are from outside the UK, took on the responsibility for organising the event. Tianna, who is of Indian heritage, said: ‘When I was a pupil at the New Hall Preparatory School six years ago I was one of a very small number of people in my year group from a different ethnicity. It is so much more diverse now and I wanted everyone to be able to celebrate that.’

New Hall Culture day
Learning about the Netherlands’ traditions

Parents praised the pupils for their searching questions, expressing a desire for this to become an annual event.

Head of Preparatory Division, Samantha Twomey, said: ‘It was wonderful to see parents and pupils proudly sharing their cultural heritage and to see the enthusiasm from everyone in learning about the rich variety of traditions. Our Sixth Form students often visit us as part of our ‘buddy’ system and it’s incredibly rewarding to see them devise and arrange this event for the benefit of all.’

Alongside its successful academic programme, New Hall School encourages students in charitable work and giving, holding fundraising events throughout the year in support of a range of charities and running the successful New Hall Voluntary service, with which all students are involved during their time at the school.

Carrying a basket on your head, Kenyan style

See New Hall’s online listing here.