Preview: Oxford Folk Weekend

Following the cancellation of the Oxford Folk Festival in 2011, the local community decided to band together and organise a festival of their own. Folk Weekend Oxford is now in its second year, and, following last year’s success, has added yet more venues and events to the already extensive list. The festival runs from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st April, and will feature an abundance of concerts, ceilidhs, sessions, workshops and performances around the city. The recently refurbished Old Fire Station will act as the centre for the festival, with events held in the venue’s theatre, gallery, studio, loft and bar over the course of the weekend. The weekend officially begins with Oxford quintet Magpie Lane’s opening concert at the Old Fire Station Theatre on Friday evening, with support coming from Rising Voices, Oxford’s traditional folk community choir (conducted by Cat Kelly, the Festival Director). Other acts performing at the Old Fire Station Theatre include festival patron Jackie Oates, BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award finalists Tyde, and Turkish-Cypriot singer Dogan Mehmet. There will also be countless performances at the Old Fire Station Studio and Gallery throughout Saturday and Sunday, and events at a number of other local venues including The Ashmolean Museum, Westgate Library, Oxford Castle Café 1071, and the Oxford Castle Cells.

Jackie Oates ⓒ Bryan Ledgard
Jackie Oates ⓒ Bryan Ledgard

For those who want to get more stuck in and participate in the music making themselves, there are plenty of chances to perform across the weekend. As well as sessions at the Old Fire Station Bar on each of the three evenings, there will be lunchtime sessions held at Far from the Madding Crowd from 12-4pm (Scandinavian tunes on Saturday; French tunes on Sunday) and a late night tune session at James Street Tavern on Saturday evening, from 11pm onwards. There will also be an open mic night held at Folly Bridge Inn on Friday evening for musicians. For harpists and fiddle players there will be workshops on Saturday and Sunday respectively, at the Old Fire Station. There will be just as many opportunities to dance. On top of the usual ceilidhs, there will also be a number of traditional dance workshops, from clog and maypole dancing to belly dancing.

ⓒ Police Dog Hogan, performing in Westgate Library on Saturday at 4pm
Police Dog Hogan ⓒ Toby Lowe, performing in Westgate Library on Saturday at 4pm

A new addition to Folk Weekend Oxford this year is the Village Fête, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, from 11am-5pm in Gloucester Green. As well as music and Morris dancing, there will be several craft stores and traditional fairground stalls, all raising money for local charities. There are also a number of events arranged with a young audience in mind, including a family ceilidh with Abingdon-based group ‘What’s up Folk!’ at Wesley Memorial Church Hall, maypole and drama workshops at Oxford Castle Gardens, and shows at the Westgate Children’s Library. The drama workshops are being organised by Creation Theatre, and will give children the chance to take part in some of England’s traditional tales, from King Arthur to Robin Hood, and the castle gardens will also see visits from Bubblemania, and curators from the Pitt Rivers Museum. The events at the Westgate Children’s Library include the children’s music show ‘Off We Go!’, and Jackie Oates’ lullaby session for children under four. There will also be events showcasing the talents of Oxford’s schoolchildren; the ‘Offspring’ concert series at the Wesley Memorial Church will include performances from instrumental and vocal groups from local primary and secondary schools, and the local schools’ maypole competition on Sunday morning at Oxford Castle Gardens.

With its impressive array of events, Folk Weekend Oxford is sure to be a weekend of high quality performances and community spirit.

J. Wadsworth

Folk Weekend Oxford runs from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st April. Weekend season tickets cost £48 (£42 concessions, £30 youth, £20 under 12), but tickets for individual days and for individual events are also available. For full event listings and ticket information please visit Tickets are available already online, and the festival box office will open on Friday 19th April at 6pm at the Old Fire Station. For any further questions, please contact Cat Kelly, the Festival Director, at

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