A journey through the Iris Festival of Imagined Worlds

Tags: fantasy, Tolkien, Narnia, Wonderland, Harry Potter, classics, Archaeology

On Friday 9th February, we held our Festival of Imagined Worlds at Cheney School! The festival was a celebration of the magical worlds invented by authors, and how these are often inspired from ancient myths and history. Hundreds of visitors and Cheney school students were able to explore four different main fictional worlds: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll and Harry Potter. A yellowbrick road connected the different worlds, and in each one, there were a very wide range of stalls, workshops, activities and decorations. Outside, there were beautiful owls and other birds of prey, brought by Millets Farm, as well as Quidditch, which visitors could take part in! 

In Tolkien world, visitors were greeted by three elves and able to make some elven "Lembas Bread" wraps to take on their journey. There was also a wall-size map of Middle Earth to help guide them. The Story Museum had a campfire, and tales of Dragons to tell. The British Tolkien Society had a display of eight stunning costumes, as well as a calligraphy workshop. The Oxford University Tolkien Society were in Rivendell, and had a range of activities including rune writing and Tengwar, and a team of Cheney students did elvish facepainting and hair-feathering! Re-enactment organisation Comitatus were to be found in Minas Tirith where they showed visitors a range of Anglo-Saxon armour and weaponry similar to that which the Riders of Rohan used, and also showed people how to make fire from flint! 

Under the beautiful White Tree of Gondor, created by Cheney Year 12 Art students, Lana Pagnier and Ruth Gimson, the illustrator Clive Goddard ran workshops on how to draw characters from Lord of the Rings. The Ashmolean and Bodleian Libraries were both nearby in the Shire, where a range of beautiful maps and artefacts could be explored, as well as an activity to design a fantastical beast!

In gloomy Mordor, the Eye of Sauron, made by Cheney student Geo Ramos, stood tall, and visitors could explore Discworld and make a turtle, and find out about how classics and Tolkien are connected! 

In Narnia, visitors walked through the wardrobe doors and past the lantern and the witch's sleigh to find a range of activities. Anglia Ruskin University ran a passports to the Moon and Fairyland activities, while Dr Pollard from the University of Southampton introduced the Uffington geoglyph. East Oxford Primary School students eagerly ran a table full of Narnia-themed activities and exhibits, and illustrator Danny Flynn displayed some of his beautiful and evocative work. There was also a Making Monsters and Imaginary Cities activity run by Valeria Vitale, where visitors could construct monsters and cities by logging into computers and helping construct them on a projector. The Oxford Anthropology Dept introduced the key moral laws that underpin all societies, the Neo-Latin society showed how Latin and Imagined Worlds are connected, and a team of Cheney students ran a cave-finding activity!

Outside J.K. Rowling world, visitors could take part in an exciting Quidditch obstacle course run by Cheney students. They then reached the all-important sorting hat stall, where they could wear the famous hat and find out which house they belonged to! Passing through into Diagon Alley, they could find a Butter Beer stall, a potions workshop, an opportunity to paint dragon's eggs, and guess the weight of a giant dragon's egg in chocolate coins! Laura Jenkinson of Greek Myth Comix was there to introduce visitors to the creatures and characters from Greek mythology, and the Panoply Vase Animation Project displayed their brilliantly imagined animations from the images on Greek vases. 

The Oxford University Harry Potter Society ran a range of craft-based activities, and a team of Cheney students ran a tea divination stall! Oxford Archaeology showed visitors how medieval Oxford looked, while Oxford 2050 gave everyone the opportunity to imagine a future Oxford! A Gringotts Bank goblin showed a range of Harry Potter coins, and a team of facepainters transformed people with Harry Potter scars, ice queens and trees of Gondor.

The final world on the trail was Wonderland. On arrival every visitor could make a key chain for a secret door. There was then a range of Alice-inspired activities, from crown making to hat decorating. The Cheney Robotic Club brought their Robot Magic stall to the world, where people were able to operate a large robot, and speak to the team about the other things the club does. The Oxfordshire Museum Services showed a range of magical-themed artefacts, including a replica of the beautiful Didcot Mirror, and the British Museum Portable Antiquities scheme bought some Roman coins to handle and explore. Oxford Brookes English Department ran a Shakespeare Imagined Worlds activity, and Lewis Carroll Society came to speak about their work. A seven foot Mad Hatter model, made by Mary Gatenby from Ruskin School of Art, also welcomed visitors!

Last but definitely not least was the hugely popular Mad Hatters cafe, run by two Mad Hatters, with an "Alice" as their assistant. Serving a range of magical food and drink, visitors could sit at tables with tea pots and drink-me bottles, and enjoy a bit of sit-down after all the magic and excitement.

Alongside all this, there were talks by authors of fantasy fiction in the Assembly Hall: Melinda Salisbury, Alice Broadway, Alan Gibbons, Steve Voake, and Angie Sage. Each author spoke about how imaginary worlds feature in their novels, and they had enthusiastic audiences who asked a range of penetrating questions!

We are very grateful indeed to everyone involved in this fantastical festival: stallholders, illustrators, authors, and the many Cheney students who ran many exciting stalls and assisted on the day. Amidst the dragons, hobbits, elves, wizards, witches, fantastical beasts and many other characters, a magical time was had by all!

We will announce the winners of the costume and dragon's egg competition very soon.