The University of Warwick hosted the world’s largest student-run international event last week for the fourteenth consecutive year. One World Week, which aims to promote cultural awareness and integration, is held on campus every January.
The event consisted of four main elements: arts, festival, forum, and sport, each with their own unique events. The arts events included the World Music Concert and other various plays, workshops and performances. The festival events included the Fashion Show and World Party. Forum consisted of talks from different guest speakers, and was designed to promote awareness of global issues. Finally, sport included competitions between various universities in what is claimed to be Warwick University’s largest sports festival of the year.
One World Week started in 1995 as a single-day event and since then has grown significantly. This year’s event had 226 volunteers and took eleven months to organise. The event’s website claims that it has over 22,000 participants each year.
The event’s organisers worked for months to plan One World Week and to ensure it was a success. Andreas Fox, the One World Week coordinator, says he was in the Union from nine in the morning until eleven in the evening every day this term.
“It’s a long term commitment, but we all get excited by the projects so we never feel tired or bored of it,” he says.
Though most of the participants are Warwick University students, One World Week also reaches out to other groups.
“We try to engage with the community, especially the local community. We’ve had a couple of local schools come in; some of my team have gone and given a few fun classes and interactive workshops. Our launch party invites dignitaries like local mayors.
We had the Lord Mayor of Birmingham come down, which is really good,” says Fox.
One World Week is not-for-profit; it is designed to reach a break-even point, and any money earned over that point goes towards next year’s event. All the staff are student volunteers. Though funding comes partly from ticket revenue, it is unlikely the event would survive without corporate sponsorship.
“Because of our size, because of our presence, we’ve been able to attract more financial sponsorship. Because of that financial backing, we’ve been able to grow to the size we are at today,” says Fox.
The Students’ Union are also instrumental in helping with One World Week. Apart from providing logistical support to the organisers, they also provide venues for all of the One World events. The University also helps the organisers plan the event.
This year’s event presented some unique challenges to the organisers, especially in terms of securing an appropriate venue and seeking out sufficient funding.
“Obviously we don’t have the standard union so it took us a long time to negotiate and figure out how we were going to fit our style of events in the current venue situation. The TES has been a great asset to us,” says Fox. The current economic downturn also resulted in a decrease in available sponsorships, he says.
Despite the obstacles, the Union and the One World Week organisers believe this year’s event was a success.
“I’m really happy, I’m really proud of the way the team has worked together,” says Fox. “I reckon we’ve done a pretty good job.”
“It has been a massive success, particularly because it has been a difficult year for the festival, with it having to change venues and also in light of the current economic climate,” agrees Mike Pidgeon, the Students’ Union communications officer.
He continued, “It’s good that there have been so many more home students involved and it hasn’t been so exclusive to international students. I hope this trend carries on in the future. It really has seemed to have brought in all cultures. I’m just sad I won’t be around to see it next year.”
Students also seem to have enjoyed the event. “There’s a real sense of community here at the moment,” said one.
Another student said how he was glad he got involved in One World Week because he definitely felt more incorporated into the different cultures at the university, however he hoped that would translate into more integration in the University after One World Week was over.
Claire Furner, a student volunteer with the One World Week public relations and marketing team, also thought the event went smoothly. She says that “the events have been run well, the standard of everything has been excellent. I think UK day was particularly successful because it was the first day where the transformation of campus seemed to occur outside the union.”
The Union also believe the event is beneficial to Warwick students. “It’s massively important, with development opportunities to students, especially in terms of management. It also heightens the reputation of the university, as it is the biggest student-run festival in the world,” says Pidgeon.
Though most seem to feel the event is well-organised and exciting, there are others who believe One World Week does not reach its full potential.
“I think in theory that One World Week is an amazing celebration of the multiculturalism at Warwick, but in practice it seems like it’s not as vibrant as I thought it would be in the sense that things don’t seem to be advertised as much or maybe there’s just not much going on,” says first-year student David Greaves.