Preview: MCS Arts Festival 2015

Now celebrating its seventh year, the MCS Arts Festival will run for two weeks from Saturday 20th June to Sunday 5th July. Supported by funding from Arts Council England, the city and county councils, and the University of Oxford, the festival will consist of over a hundred events, held at venues across Oxford. This year’s programme focuses on heritage and origins, with a number of events exploring this theme, including a family-friendly Medieval Day held at Oxford Castle, with tours, demonstrations, and activities; and ‘Direct Roots: A Theatre-Makers Symposium’, a day of workshops, performances, and talks at The Old Fire Station (Sunday 28th June, 11am-6pm).

The subject of origins also forms the basis of MCS’s regional poetry competition, the winners of which will have the opportunity to take to the stage alongside Roger McGough at St John the Evangelist Church (Tuesday 30th June, 7.30pm). McGough, President of the Poetry Society, will be performing works from his most recent collection, As Far As I Know. This is one of many literature events taking place over the course of the festival, amongst them an assortment of poetry and storytelling workshops held between Friday 26th and Tuesday 30th June. The Oxfordshire Youth Poetry Slam, organised in association with Hammer & Tongue, will be held at MCS on Saturday 27th June. (You can read our recent interview with H&T’s founder, Steve Larkin, here.)

With Magdalen College School at its centre, it is no surprise that the festival places an emphasis on youth performance. Hundreds of children from almost forty local schools will be participating, and many workshops are geared primarily towards under-18s. Others, however, are open to all, including those organised as part of the festival’s Arts and Crafts Day (Sunday June 28th). From Chinese printmaking to comic book illustration, the day offers the opportunity to dabble in various creative activities in venues across the city. These will be complemented by introductory talks to art appreciation and investment, held throughout the day at Aidan Meller Gallery on Broad Street.

A free, unticketed screening of Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte, performed by Garsington Opera, will be shown in the MCS field (Thursday 2nd July), with views of the Cherwell and Botanic Gardens. This is one of several outdoor musical events, alongside ‘Jazz on the Island’, featuring the Oxford Gargoyles and Temple Funk Collective, and ‘Madrigals on the Water’, performed from punts on the river. The list of classical concerts is an extensive one, with a couple of the many highlights being countertenor Robin Blaze and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny’s selection of seventeenth-century lute songs (Holywell Music Room, Saturday 27th June, 7.30pm) and soprano Hedvid Paulig’s performances of Sibelius songs in celebration of the composer’s 150th anniversary (Magdalen College Chapel, Wednesday 1st July, 7pm).

Readers are recommended to consult the festival’s full programme here, in order to view the full quantity and variety of the events on offer. From comedy and drama to walking tours and dance classes, the MCS Arts Festival boasts something for everyone.

J. Wadsworth

Readers can book tickets from the MCS Arts Festival website.

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