Around 200 people joined the first major cross-cultural community cohesion event of Autumn 2019 in Exeter Communities Together’s calendar. The Onam Festival Celebration was hosted by Exeter Malayalee Association, a partner organisation of Exeter Communities Together, on Saturday 21st September 2019 at West Exe School in Exeter.

The event provided a great opportunity for those in rural and isolated areas in Devon to celebrate their culture and gather in a safe space to socialise and meet other members of the community, participate in fun activities and share food. Attended by children, women and men, the Onam Festival Celebration offered a mix of singing, dancing, competitions and games that involved everyone and encouraged all age groups and genders to participate. Members of the Malayalee community travelled from different parts of Devon to attend with their families.

Onam is an annual Harvest festival celebrated in the state of Kerala in India. It is part of the Malayalam calendar often celebrated in September. The event enabled the Malayalee community in Devon to celebrate and embrace their culture and identity in a safe space. It created an opportunity for all different generations of the community to come together and engage in celebratory activities that included all members of the community.

As well as lunch being provided, activities included a children’s dance, solo dance, women’s group dance, a music performance, a fashion show, a competition and a tug of war challenge to increase cross-cultural interaction.

As with many events in Exeter Communities Together’s calendar, the Onam Festival Celebration also empowered members by providing them with the resources and opportunity to communicate, meet regularly, form friendships, be part of the organising and lead their own event to reflect their own strengths. It included backstage work, compèring event recording and technical support all led by members of the community, as well as some of the performances.

The event was attended by members from other community groups and enabled them to learn more about the Malayalee community and their culture, which was reflected in the activities, performances and food. Overall, this event was an exiting start to the next phase of Exeter Communities Together’s calendar of activities and gives us more to look forward to in the coming months.

Below are some videos and photos from the event.