Little Amal meets Alice in Oxford

Image Description: the two puppets, standing in front of Hertford College. 

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, and to raise awareness of the plight of refugee children, two life-sized puppets were paraded through Oxford today.

Little Amal, a young refugee in giant puppet form, is travelling over 8,000km from the Syria/Turkey border to Manchester. The puppet represents all displaced children and child refugees.

‘Amal Meets Alice’ is a non-verbal story commissioned by The Story Museum from Syrian author Nadine Kaadan. Alice and Amal met at the Botanical Gardens, then paraded through the city throughout the afternoon, visiting places including the Weston Library and Christ Church Meadow.

Large crowds gathered along the route to watch the procession. A group of women from refugee backgrounds sang Alice and Amal a traditional lullaby in Arabic on Broad Street, and the afternoon ended with a participatory dance in Christ Church Meadows.

Talking exclusively to The Oxford Student, Holly Khan, the composer of the music that accompanied Alice and Amal across Oxford, commented on her inspiration for the music she had designed.

“It’s a mixture of quite Western instruments and quite regal in the Botanical gardens – very string-based and orchestral – and now [on Broad Street] it’s using more Arabic instruments and fusing them together.”

Holly Khan also commented on the large turnout for the event:

“I’m very pleased with it. In the Botanical Garden you could barely even move there were so many people!”

“It’s so important that people care about this because there is a very important message that we need to support all refugees and displaced children. And I’m really pleased that Oxford is opening their hearts to Little Amal.”

‘Alice and Amal’ has been supported by Oxford City Council via the We Are Oxford Fund, the Oxford University Community Fund, Oxford Festival of the Arts, Dancin’ Oxford, the Oxford Botanic Gardens and Christ Church.

Jan Dogar-Hurd, Education Adviser and ‘Beyond Amal’ Coordinator for Asylum Welcome says, “The ‘Beyond Amal’ Project embodies the central mission of Asylum Welcome which is to support, enable and empower the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire.”

“Recent educational research conducted by Asylum Welcome reported that refugees and asylum seekers stated their ‘first priority was safety and their second was education.’ Amal’s visit to Oxford has inspired  ‘Beyond Amal,’ an education initiative which will not only develop valuable skills for the participants but will help to facilitate a sense of connection and the confidence to make a meaningful contribution to our diverse community.”

Isy Mead, Head of Learning at The Story Museum says, “It has been so special to work with a dedicated group of people, all with highly developed skills in a range of contexts, to explore the ancient and transformative traditions of oral storytelling and creative story making. We are looking forward to establishing this programme as a regular yearly opportunity to further the Museum’s mission to enrich all lives with stories.”

Councillor Shaista Aziz, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities said:

“Today’s event is a wonderful way to show us that all refugees are people with their own story, memories and heritage. Refugees and migrants are welcome in Oxford, and the City Council is delighted to be helping to fund today’s event and calls on residents to join with groups like Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource working alongside the City Council. We want to support people’s full participation in our community, cultural and economic life and remember the importance of compassion, kindness, courage and our shared connections as human beings.”

Image Credits: Madeleine Ross and Naa Ntodi

This article was updated on 26/10/2021 to include further comments.