Date of Publication: 30 August 2016
Written by Kezia Fender, Assistant Course Director at St Benet’s Hall
As the curtain rolled up to reveal the carved doors to the Great Hall, I realised all 57 of us had found something in common. No, it wasn’t Nando’s as a large group of the boys would like to think, neither was it the ‘weird British eggs’, as Scotch eggs were dubbed by one student, it was the intricate magic that built the sets, props and costumes of Harry Potter. Students practised their flying on a broomstick and wand waving and had a chance to see all the original props, costumes and sets, and to learn about how they were created by specialist designers and special effects teams. A moving Buckbeak and life-size Aragog are incredible feats of engineering. The world that Warner Bros created was so much more real than I had realised, right from the oil paintings on the walls of Hogwarts to the three-domed room that is Dumbledore’s office. To walk around the studios is to walk around the life-size world of Harry Potter.
Having been an English Literature student I was caught up in how J.K. Rowling’s words had been made objects, but then transferred to the medium of film, but I can imagine the more scientifically-minded being fascinated by the intricate architectural and engineering plans and sketches. It was actually not possible to take it all in in one trip!
This trip felt like an accumulation of excitement that had been building since we had seen the Great Hall, staircases, and cloisters that had been used in the filming of Harry Potter, on our tour around Christ Church College. The previous evening we had also set up a photo booth after formal hall with all-out Harry Potter costumes and our very own homemade butterbeer. Plus they got to try on and see us in our gowns which Oxford and Cambridge students wear to formal events. Students had been asking me questions about my love of Harry Potter all throughout these activities and in the restaurant on the evening after the trip I was inundated with pictures they wanted to show me – their enthusiasm was incredibly infectious.
The day had actually started in the world of Alice and Wonderland which had sprung up around Oxford City Centre with a series of street performers, improvising comedians in rabbit costumes and special exhibitions around the Bodleian and the Story Museum about the animals of Alice’s world. Lewis Carroll taught Maths at Christ Church College and wrote Alice in Wonderland while he was here and is a big part of the rich literary history of the city. Thanks to the Harry Potter films, Oxford has gained a new layer of cultural richness, held in its centuries old buildings, and it is really interesting to see those layers interact as our journey took us from Christ Church to Harry Potter World through the course of the week.
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