The Oxford Muse has held the second event in its Oxford Unmasked project with a Conversation Meal at the University of Oxford's Natural History Museum. Around 50 people from across the city took part in the event, which was held with the support of the home of Mini production, BMW Group Plant Oxford, and the cultural development agency Oxford Inspires.
There was a huge range of participants, including representatives and employees from the the Blackbird Leys Choir, the BMW plant in Cowley, Oxfordshire County Council, The Oxford Trust, Oxford Night Shelter, Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, Oxfordshire Older Chinese People's Centre, the Ruskin Agewell Group, Fusion, Oxfam, the Natural History Museum and BBC Radio Oxford. Also present were a professor, porter and students from Oxford University, a professional actor, a disabilities trainer, a school caretaker, a bike shop worker, a landscape designer and representatives from local businesses.
Each person sat with someone they didn't know and used an Oxford Muse Menu of Conversation to get beyond superficial talk and 'unmask' themselves. 'Dishes' on the menu included questions on topics such as friendship, family, compassion and aspirations. The conversation was accompanied by a sumptuous meal created by Will Pouget from the Vaults & Garden Organic Cafe in Oxford.
Here is what some of those taking part in the meal had to say about their experiences:
'We had a terrific conversation. There can be a great moment in these conversations, at the start, when you have found a question on the Menu of Conversation that you both like, and one of you starts talking, and you realise something extraordinary is about to happen: a stranger is going to share something intimate and cherished with you.'
'This evening has been strangely moving. I have always found it difficult to sustain a conversation with a stranger for more than a handful of minutes. Tonight I have not once looked at my watch. I have, more importantly, learned a great deal and enjoyed myself.'
'It completely surpassed all expectations. I fully believe that the Conversation Dinners will get people talking again, and build relationships within business, communities and societies.'
'I had a fascinating time talking to my conversation partner. I learned a lot about Chinese culture and the experience of moving to Britain from a different country. Everything my partner said inspired me to find out more.'
'A brilliant venue and wonderful food.'
All photographs by Kate Raworth