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8th July - 4th August 2018

Previous Guests

These are some of the guests who have visited us in past courses

Note this is only a guide, not a guarantee.

Previous Guests

Ahmad Al-Rashid

Ahmad is a Syrian student who left his home in Aleppo during the recent conflict. He studied English language and literature at Aleppo University before fleeing Syria for the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Once there, Ahmad worked as a volunteer teaching English in Syrian refugee camps and later joined the UN to work for both the Syrian Refugee Response and the Iraqi Displaced People Response after Mosul fell to ISIS.  His work gave him the opportunity to assist people from a huge variety of backgrounds including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Arabs and Turks fleeing war in both Syria and Iraq.

Later, due to the increasing instability in the region, Ahmad was forced to flee Iraq, at which point he set out for the UK, embarking on an unimaginably perilous journey from the Middle East.

He has now been granted asylum in the UK and since his arrival has been working with various grassroots and volunteer groups - advocating for refugee rights and child refugees. He has also spoken in the UK Parliament on several occasions and appeared on the BBC, ITV, and Sky, and his articles have also appeared in The Guardian and The Independent. He regularly participates in panels, events and public debates to raise awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees. He is currently studying for a MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development at SOAS, the University of London.

Ahmad visited the School of English and Culture in 2017 and gave a heart-stopping account of his journey from Syria to the UK. Later, he facilitated a team game with the SEC students to represent aspects of his journey. The following day, he spent the morning in the classroom with the Open Minds students discussing the Syrian conflict, the situation with displaced peoples and the global migration crisis and the media portrayal of conflict across cultures. The students gained a huge amount from the experience and were incredibly moved to get to know Ahmad and to hear his story first-hand in such an intimate setting.


The Candlestick Collective

The Candlestick Collective provided an evening of mystery and wonder at Marlborough. They are a group of actors from nearby Bristol who provide immersive, theatrical experiences that take people on a journey of the imagination. On their evening with us, the students were invited to attend a 70s-disco party. However, this was no ordinary disco. The students became a part of an intriguing and, at times, surreal journey involving characters such as: Tina So Fresh and So Cleaner (the cleaner), Brandy Pussikins (the roller waitress), Daphni Disco (the Jazz singer), Foxy Casablanca (the finance manager), Tony Revolter (the greatest dancer) and Grievous Bodily Harmsworth (the bouncer). The students did a fantastic job of navigating the twists and turns of the story and building their confidence through creativity and use of the imagination.


Tom Thumb Magician

Tom has been passionate about magic for most of his life and been working as a professional magician for over ten years. He recently fulfilled his life-long dream by becoming a member of the elusive Magic Circle. He does many types of magic but is particularly excited by close-up magic, using playing cards, coins, rope, silk and everyday objects to make extraordinary illusions happen right in front of your eyes.

Tom visited the School of English and culture to perform his incredible routine at our casino and ‘mocktails’ evening and completely wowed the students with his amazing tricks making things disappear at will and cards appear where no one could have imagined. Later, he spent the rest of the evening teaching some of the more curious students some of his tricks and also talked to them about fulfilling their dreams as he had done when he finally managed to enter into the Magic Circle. A magical addition to the SEC course!


G.Bop Orchestra

An experimental percussive ensemble that emerged from South London in autumn of 2013. Led by percussionist and composer Greta Eacott, the band has gone on to release two E.Ps and their debut album, Punctuations In Space (recorded in various non-studio settings) and toured in UK and Scandinavia, with a flexible line-up featuring different combinations of players from across Europe. Their high tension acoustic live shows bring fresh and abstract musical ideas together with a clarity and direction, making the g.bop orchestra as at home touring with a pop band as they are in an art gallery.

G.Bop Orchestra visited the School of English and Culture and created an intriguing and challenging musical concept for the students to interact with. Surrounding the space with several instruments; drums, marimba, double bass, the students were invited to explore the space and learn to play the 'instrument' that it had become. By treading, walking, running and dancing on different areas of the floor they were able to get the musicians to play different parts of their instruments and at different tempos. The students had a great time exploring their creativity whilst playing with the music. After a short break, the students had the opportunity to watch a performance of G. Bop Orchestra's song 'Pile Up'. This is an avant-garde piece which took many of the students out of their comfort zones and gave them the chance to engage with musical concepts that were, in most cases, quite alien to them - all part of the Open Minds experience!