Turl Street Arts Festival, the annual festival of arts centered on the Turl Street colleges, Exeter, Lincoln, and Jesus, returns this year from 7th-17th February. The festival will see an extraordinary range of events, from the opening concert featuring Bach and Purcell, to a Jazz Parade, as well as comedy, poetry, and art evenings. President Ashleigh Tilley said of the line-up that ‘I wanted to show, with the festival, that ‘the arts’ does not have to be something dominated by a small group of genres and people. It is such a wide umbrella, and we’ve tried to reflect this in the events that we’ve planned. This means that there is a lot of potential for getting involved, whether you think you’re an ‘arty’ person or not. So there are events like the Opening Concert, which features professional soloists and some really talented student performers, and there are also more informal events like Live@TSK, which combines acoustic live music with an art exhibition at the Oxford Hub.’
Alongside these are appearances from Los Campesinos! and Marvellous Medicine at the Launch Night, and the somewhat more eclectic theremin workshop, comedy night, and an Evening of Poetry (and coffee) at The Missing Bean, offering a showcase for nearly twenty poets from across Oxford. According to TSAF Secretary Owen Donovan, the impetus for the event lies in that ‘Poetry is a fantastic art form that deserves to be publicly available, and these poets that are performing deserve – through the quality of their work – to be given a space to perform their poetry, and an audience to listen. This will be an intimate night, in quite a small venue compared to many of our other events, but poets will be performing to an audience that is receptive and largely made up of fellow performers. It will be an interesting night because poets will be able to meet others who share their love of poetry, and share their work with, primarily, those who are also writing and performing.’
As well as the new additions to the festival, favourite events from previous years are also making an appearance, including the New Orleans Jazz Band Parade on Saturday 16th February, and performing for the closing night event on the same evening, raising money for ExVac, Exeter’s student charity. Matt Parvin’s play ‘You Maverick!’, running from the Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th February follows on the successes of his plays A Row of Parked Cars in 2011 which transferred to the Burton Taylor Studio after its successful run at TSAF, and The Players in 2012. The preview performance promises an engaging exploration of personal identity construction, focused upon the role that gender plays in this. Originally entitled The Writers – due to each character creating several different personas for themselves – the play opens with a disagreement over plagiarism, which soon reveals undercurrents of something altogether more sinister in addressing the play’s core themes of sexuality and identity, and the power of language. Charlie Hooper, Tim Drummond, and Charlie Metcalfe are thoroughly convincing as three individuals caught in a web of manipulation, insecurity, and power struggle. In the scenes released for preview, Tim Drummond as Kasper was particularly compelling, his powerful performance carrying through the occasional moment of jarring imagery in what was otherwise a fast-paced and thought-provoking script.
If live drama is not for you, then Sunday 10th sees the student-run organisation Hacked Off Films host the Oxford contribution to the Future Shorts Festival, the world’s largest pop-up film festival covering 90 countries across the globe. Not only are a wide range of films being shown including Candy Girl and Fishing Without Nets (Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2012) but the film screenings are combined with live music and comedy acts. These include sets by The Awkward Silence (described as ‘Wonderful and funny’ by Paul Foot and nominated for last year’s Writers’ Guild Awards) and Arthur Sawbridge, the multi-faceted programme showcasing the ethos of Hacked Off Films. ‘Hacked Off Films is a student-led nonprofit organisation that aims to make interacting with film exciting once again’, Owen tells me. ‘Watching film should be an event, an action that you feel emotionally tied to, and not something that you simply buy a ticket to, wait for the credits to roll and then leave. We’re interested in creating events that, either through immersive cinema where you have live aspects of the film before, during, and after a screening or through intimate showings of film and other arts…create an environment in which film becomes something you can connect to, and enjoy on far more than simply a superficial level.’ Whether your interests lie in film, drama, music, art, literature, or simply a love of good coffee, then this year’s festival will certainly provide an event worth exploring.