Music, performance and dance will take centre stage this weekend as Bicester’s annual arts festival returns with a dazzling line-up, available streamed and via Facebook, with a few live events to enjoy as well.

This year’s theme is about ‘keeping the flame alive’ and the festival’s virtual curtain will be raised at 6pm on Friday with a mix of live and pre-recorded music to kick-start the weekend.

Among the headliners are a cappella trio The Skeptics and the ever-popular Steve Winch and The Inception, bringing a high-octane vibe inspired by the likes of The Jam, The Stranglers and Elvis Costello.

“The Bicester community has come together to showcase and highlight the amazing work that has come out of a challenging time. We are very excited to share how we, as a community, are keeping the flame alive!”

Saturday showcases an eclectic mix of performances, including an interactive virtual Flash Dance led by Dance Creative, the vocal talents of local singer Yasmin Saint as well as a DJ set to entertain the audience as the sun goes down.

Sunday’s line-up starts with some morning yoga, followed by an interactive play for little ones called “Swish”. Produced by Moulded Theatre – experts in creating innovative and accessible children’s shows – Swish follows the adventures of Olive the tiny turtle as she tries to pick up all the plastic pollution in the sea.

Emma Doupé, who runs Evolve Vocal Studio in Bicester, and helped arrange this year’s event, said: “Programming this year’s virtual Bicester Festival has been a fun and creative challenge. We are teaming up with amazing creatives in our community to provide an inclusive, interactive, safe, yet intriguing and stimulating festival.

“The Bicester community has come together to showcase and highlight the amazing work that has come out of a challenging time. We are very excited to share how we, as a community, are keeping the flame alive!”

Cllr Andrew McHugh, Cherwell’s lead member for health and wellbeing said: “COVID-19 has proved a difficult time for artists, performers and audiences alike, with many traditional venues staying closed throughout the pandemic.

“This year’s online Bicester Festival provides a safe and accessible stage to celebrate the arts, enabling those taking part to showcase their talent whilst providing some great entertainment for the people watching at home.” 

To ensure the live performances are COVID-secure, the Bicester Festival has worked with TAD studios in Chesterton, and Distinct Solutions in Bucknell.

After this weekend’s celebrations, the Bicester Festival webpage will become the home of Bicester arts, showcasing the best of the town’s creative talents all year round.

The Bicester Festival is organised by a team of volunteers and supported by Cherwell District Council and Bicester Town Council.

For more details on Bicester Festival (Friday 18 to Sunday 20 September) go to the new website www.bicesterfestival.org

SARAH EDWARDS

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