Twinning Launch 2021

Artivism: Youth Theatre Festival links Oxford and Ramallah

Mandala Theatre Company in Oxford and Ashtar Theatre in Ramallah collaborated  to organise the Artivism Youth Theatre Festival which ran from 1-7 July. The inspiring launch took place at The Ultimate Picture Palace in Cowley Road on 1 July.

The screenings of the plays began with filmed introductions from the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Mark Lygo; the Mayor of Ramallah, Musa Hadid; and the artistic directors of Mandala and Ashtar Theatres.

  • Mandala Theatre Company’s production of Blood Oil, written by Sean Burn and directed by Yasmin Sidhwa
  • Ashtar Theatre’s performance ofThe Brainwashers Conference, an adaptation of Turandot by Bertolt Brecht directed by Iman Aoun

After the screenings we had a fantastic live and online Q&A session with the young actors from both plays - with Ashtar joining online.

Funded by the British Council, the festival featured a series of workshops where the actors and young local people linked with groups who joined Artivism from around the world – a truly international youth theatre festival organised and hosted by two dynamic theatre companies.

Celebrating the Twinning

In their introductions to the Theatre Festival, the Mayors of Oxford and Ramallah highlighted the connections between the two cities, which had been officially linked with the signing of a twinning agreement in Oxford Town Hall in March 2019.

Our relationship with Oxford is a special one since it’s based on our communities. This festival is a celebration of the ongoing connection that, although only dates back a short period, is already very dense.

Together with the city of Oxford, we have managed to link our schools to enable students to exchange their experiences. We have also, despite a worldwide pandemic, succeeded in collaborating in many virtual festivals. 

This shows how human bonds are stronger than any obstacle – be it viral or Israeli occupation.  Our exchanges reflect the quality of ties that bond both cities, demonstrating a human solidarity that exceeds borders.

Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah

The Artivism Festival is a celebration of cultures and community – the very essence of what the twinning is designed to nurture.

The links between the cities of Ramallah and Oxford started before the twinning, and it was these links that led to the cementing of our relationship by officially having Ramallah twinned with Oxford. 

The last 15 months have been incredibly difficult for the world with the pandemic but this has not stopped the exchanges between our cities.  Virtual events have taken place and three schools have been twinned. 

This demonstrates that despite restrictions the will of the people of both cities to interact and create ever stronger bonds is undaunted

Councillor Mark Lygo, Lord Mayor of Oxford

After the theatre launch events there was a party in Oxford for Artivism and Twinning.

The event was made possible through the support of Oxford City Council and Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association.  Mayor Mark Lygo and Cllr Lubna Arshad celebrated with us. 

We are very grateful to all the people who helped with the event; Delnavaz and London-based band, El Andaluz who played and dancers Ali, Iris and Hatem who performed Dabke for the guests. 

The event was at Flo’s in the Park, with delicious food from the Palestinian restaurant,  Za’atar Bake on Cowley Road and Baklava from Damascus Rose Café. 

This was a real cultural celebration of the friendship links we have between Oxford and Ramallah.  Huge thank you to everyone who helped to make this such a great success.

photos by Alexander Clovis

ORFA supporters serving food from Za'atar Bake

Meanwhile in Ramallah...

The festival launch and celebration of the twinning of the two cities took place simultaneously in Oxford and Ramallah.  Our friends from Al-Am'ari Women's Centre had stitched an emroidery with the twinning logo and they presented this to the Mayor, Musa Hadid, in Ramallah's Town Hall.

Refa writes: "Thank you very much to everyone in Oxford and Ramallah for your interest in the Al-Am'ari Women's Centre participation in the Ashtar Festival on the Ramallah Municipality stage on 1 July.  It was a beautiful and wonderful show in the presence of the British Consul, whom I spoke with and asked him to visit the Women's Centre in Al-Am'ari.  We talked about Twinning and its importance. Everyone received us wonderfully. Ashtar Theatre, Ramallah Municipality and the British Consul.  Greetings from the Women's Centre."

Musa Hadid and Refa, with media representatives, display the embroidered logo to the audience in Ramallah Town Hall.