The Oxford Muse has held the third event in its Oxford Unmasked project: a Conversation Meal in Oxford's first Library and Convocation House alongside the University Church of St Mary. Around 40 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.
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A wonderful variety of participants came along, from all parts of Oxford, and all walks of life. As a little sample, our guests included representatives and employees of Refugee Resource, West Oxford Community Centre, Oxford Inspires, Ruskin College, Oxford University Student's Union, BMW Group Plant Oxford, Oxford University Press, the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Visual Philosophy and the Jewish Community Centre. Also gracing our tables were a restaurant owner, a video shop manager, an accountant, a careers advisor, a doctor, a broadcaster, an environmentalist, a waiter, and an actor.
Each of our guests was seated with someone they had never met before, and provided with 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 three-course vegetarian 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:
"Extraordinary. ... Thank you!"
"I found myself saying things I'd never said before, to a complete stranger who I now feel very close to. I've discovered things about myself and will be making changes to my life on the basis of what I have learnt from my partner. Thank you very much. This was a wonderful evening."
"The food was outstanding, coupled with the music and the service."
"I truly enjoyed the chance to learn as much as I could, to devour any opinions or insights into another person's life and to honestly listen, without the barriers of courtesy or business interests. Bloody good."
"Some of the questions are brilliant! The chances to meet new people are all too few, and the aims of the project are particularly admirable. Thank you for making me a part of it!"
"The concept is a wonderful one. I look forward to many more fascinating conversations."
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All photos taken by Simon Murison-Bowie