The final weekend of July sees 45 acres of Oxfordshire woodland and fields adapted to showcase the diversity and creativity of the Muslim community.
Willowbrook Farm is found, off a quiet country lane, amidst fields, unusually yellowed by this summer’s intense heat. Last weekend one of the fields was bordered by tents, as the public arrived for an annual festival, which has become a fixture in the summer diary for Muslim families and locals.
Willowbrook Farm and the highly unusual Festival are the brainchild of the Radwan family, self-trained small hold farmers with a background in academia.
Sustainable Family Living
The family is committed to a way of life they strongly link to the Quranic injunction for human beings to act as ‘vicegerents’ on earth. The Radwan’s sustain a responsible and holistic approach to all aspects of food production, ‘from the farm to fork’. Outside festival times, the farm is open year-round for visitors to see the livestock and poultry close hand. Lambs, goats, chickens are sustained at manageable stocking levels, providing them with plenty of access to fresh pasture.
On the eve of the festival, Dr. Lutfi Radwan, a former geography don at Oxford and a development consultant told AboutIslam.net of his family’s determination to work with, rather than dominate, the environment.
“We provide an important space where people can peel away the layers of urban pressures and connect with Gods creation,” Dr. Lutfi told AboutIslam.
“I think the overriding feature of the festival and the farm is the communion with nature. We provide an important space where people can peel away the layers of urban pressures and connect with Gods creation,” he said.
On Saturday the female duo, Pearls Of Islam, were the first musical act on the rustic, wooden stage in the performance field. Amidst blustery rain, their soulful melodies combining voice, guitar, and drum, interactively involved the audience of campers and day visitors in soothing, Athkar (praise) from where they sat on rugs laid over the freshly mown grass.
Throughout the day, a range of workshops was offered in the courtyard of the stunning ‘Cob’ house, built from a mixture of sandy-sub soil, clay, and straw. Traditionally this was mixed by crushing the particles together by either dancing on it or using the head of a digger. The house is now a stunning addition to the regional countryside.
America Meets Brazil
After a barbecue lunch sisters could learn the basics of a ‘Lindyhop’, dance form 1950’s America. A handful of daring ladies tried out Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, acrobatics, and music.
Dr. Clair El Moudan is Chair of Trustees at the Willowbrook Charity. Grants from ‘Awards For All’ provided funds for the woodland adventure playground where children of all ages spent most of the afternoon. Gnarled steps of petrified wood, wound up vast trees.
Haunting strains from a stripped down grand piano at the top of one of them, floated over a natural headdress making workshop led by Forest School teacher Lateefa Spiker. A random door swung in the breeze, thrilling youngsters imaginations.
Finally, the sun made a reappearance just before Maghrib as Al Firdaus ensemble, the internationally renowned septet of accomplished musicians, impressed with a spiritual arrangement combing elements of Arabian, Turkish, Flamenco and Celtic influences.
Double Rainbow Effect
The weekend event had some glitches. The water was intermittent in the camping area, causing issues with Wudhu, not to mention washing up and showering facilities for campers.
But after hardship came ease. A heavy downpour led to a spectacular double rainbow. Water supplies were restored by the Festival team.
“From the comments received most had a great time,” said Dr. Lutfi.
“I would love to have more time to mingle and chat with our customers rather than be busy all day fixing water pipes and preparing food.”
“This year the fragility of even a simple resource like water was brought into focus. Unexpected rains fell from above, whilst the effects of the prolonged drought lowered the water table and took away the water beneath our feet. Indeed God is the one who gives and restricts.”