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THOUSANDS of families flocked to enjoy the latest International Family Fair celebrating global culture at the British School of Bahrain (BSB).
The warm, gloriously sunny weather proved the decision to stage the event in the spring for the first time ever to be a masterstroke. The last event, although successful, suffered a real soaking as a result of a heavy winter downfall of rain.
The ninth edition of the popular community extravaganza took place last Friday, and started with a magnificent flag-flying parade around the school’s Hamala campus.
With 2,600 pupils on the school roll, the students represent around 60 different nations, and the event once again displayed BSB’s diversity in all its glory.
Delighted Ellen van Manen, general coordinator for the International Family Fair and a parent representative for Y13 on the BSB Parent Community Committee (PCC), arrived at 7am to ensure everything fell into place after five-weeks of preparation for the 10am start.
“It was such a success and well worth all the effort,” she said. “The marketplace worked so well as we had country stalls interspersed with charities, sponsors and local arts and crafts – there really was something for everyone and all ages were catered for.
“On the AstroTurf there were gymnastic displays and musical entertainment throughout the day.
“The reaction was overwhelmingly positive from parents and pupils, families living in the neighbourhood and VIPs, including numerous ambassadors and their families, who really got a taste of what this school is all about and how special it is. The weather was brilliant and, although I haven’t an exact figure to hand, we think between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended.”
In the past, the fair has featured a festive theme as a result of a November or December timing but this year’s event was particularly apt as spring is known as a time full of exciting possibilities and BSB boasts new owners.
The school is now part of Inspired, a global group educating more than 26,000 students across an international network of 32 schools on five continents. Its group education director Dr Stephen Spurr, a former Eton College head of classics, headmaster of Clifton College and Westminster School, was in attendance and was particularly impressed by the voluntary efforts put in by the students in support of the parents.
BSB also has a new man at its helm, experienced British executive head Jeff Smith who also packs a powerful educational résumé including headships in Indonesia and Guernsey before growing Dubai’s Deira International School from 1,100 to 1,700 students and improving its assessment from ‘acceptable’ to ‘outstanding’.
He was spotted soaking up the fair’s atmosphere with his wife, Heather. They were joined by their eldest son, Joe, an NHS physiotherapist, who had travelled from Portsmouth to Bahrain on his first visit to the kingdom, to enjoy the occasion.
“I have experienced international fairs before,” said Jeff, “but not one quite like this. It’s just the size of it, the volume of people and the variety of attractions, it was very, very impressive.
“I take my hat off to Ellen who has organised it, she did a fantastic job. It went very well and I’m very pleased.
“We had great entertainment all day and many guests, including ambassadors and their families. The Turkish, US, Swiss and British embassies were all represented.”
Ellen, whose youngest son, Pim, 18, is currently a sixth-former, said she had worked closely with Amal Darwish, the school’s public relations, marketing and business development officer, on the project and was supported by more than 350 active PCC volunteers.
Nearly 200 sixth-formers also helped with the organising, volunteering and co-ordinating and many also participated alongside younger pupils in numerous performances which entertained the crowds.
A big stage was set up on the school’s AstroTurf sports fields and part of the entertainment programme were teasing excerpts from the upcoming Shrek-inspired musical production directed by the BSB music and drama department which opens tonight and runs until Friday.
There was a BD1 entry fee to the fair and money raised will go towards the purchase of ‘wish list’ extras and 10 per cent of all proceeds are donated to charity, worthy local causes still to be announced.
A token system was set in place to buy goodies which worked well with visitors snapping them up for 200fils each.
Alongside all things British and Bahraini, visitors were able to enjoy a taste of Ellen’s home country, The Netherlands, alongside country stalls highlighting the rich heritage of Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, China, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Sudan, India, Malaysia, Turkey, Lebanon, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain and others.
A Bahraini henna artist put designs on hands for three tokens a time and Chinese dumplings, at one token, and the French crepes, at two tokens, were quickly snapped up by hungry visitors and 10 tokens secured a large helping of a chicken and prawn rice-noodle dish called Kuey Teow Goreng from the Malaysian stall.
Elsewhere, the Egyptian cupcakes proved popular, as did the Greek Moussaka and Venezuelan Gustavo Leon plucked out a foot-tapping tune on his mini-guitar to guests venturing towards the South American section.
The Palestinian stall also attracted much attention thanks to a display of traditional memorabilia and tasty chicken wraps, a modern twist on the popular Musakhan dish, as did the colourful Yemeni table with sixth-former Abdulhafedh Alaswadi, and his younger brother, Aws, proudly wearing national dress.
Students put on displays and musical performances dedicated to their homelands and pergolas were put up in place on the AstroTurf to ensure the elderly and youngest visitors had an outside shaded area to keep cool and comfortable.
Some of the side attractions were worthy of note too, such as a popular Dutch stick-falling Catch Me If You Can game, a bucking bronco and boat rides in an inflatable pool.
All bases were covered and fun for all was, indeed, the most impressive flavour of the day.