Oxford’s historic city will be celebrating ‘world achievements’ in its annual Christmas Light Festival next weekend.

In the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, ‘Discovery’ will be the focus of the series of illuminated installations, exhibitions, performances, family activities and more. The city centre will be lit up with fascinating artworks as cultural organisations, schools, community groups, artists and performers populate the streets and buildings ready to share their Discoveries.

Now in its eleventh year, the festival has become an exciting annual highlight for local residents and visitors as, for a whole weekend, the city centre streets come alive with creativity: music, theatre, art and above all, light.

Rachel Capell of Oxford City Council has been busy preparing for this three-day event for a whole year.

“The Christmas Light Festival in Oxford is a major event with lots of artists, cultural organisations and community groups all coming together for an amazing weekend of celebration. This year’s theme of ‘Discovery’ is perfect for Oxford – a seat of learning, research, invention, and creation for more than 900 years. Artists taking part are working with the festival, local groups, schools and cultural organisations in making remarkable pieces for Oxford residents and visitors to discover throughout the weekend,” she said.

The weekend starts with the lantern parade created by schools and community groups. Resident artists have been working alongside them for several weeks to create individual and feature lanterns. A much-loved part of the festival weekend, the parade, heralded by marching bands and dancers, passes between the spectators in the main city centre streets. Especially good viewing places are Cornmarket and Queen Street. This signals the start of the weekend proper after which stages at the festival hubs present programmes of music, dance and theatre, while the dazzling glow of specially commissioned illuminated artworks light up the night.

There are some exciting pieces to watch out for: An interactive Celestial Sound Cloud inspired by cosmic cloud and nebulae descends on Wellington Square; Luxmuralis return to create stunning projections onto Oxford’s historic buildings; a Spacewalk fire sculpture arrives in Gloucester Green. Giant walking stags perform other worldly ceremonies on Broad Street. High impact drumming band Spark! mesmerise with their pounding rhythms and illuminated costume; The vast universe appears in Bonn Square while a large illuminated tower constructed made from recycled milk cartons reacts to surrounding sounds in Broad Street. 

The festival features over 100 events and some of Oxford’s leading cultural organisations are involved including University of Oxford Museums; Modern Art Oxford; OCM (Oxford Contemporary Music); OVADA (Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency); University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford Playhouse; Fusion Arts; Arts at the Old Fire Station; Film Oxford; The Story Museum; TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) and many others. 

Festival hubs at Gloucester Green and Bonn Square host an impressive array of light installations and performances from musicians, singers, DJs, dance groups and theatre performers on Friday and Saturday. Broad Street opens from Friday evening right through to Sunday evening with a performance stage, Christmas market and interactive artworks.

The Christmas market in Broad Street brings together artisans offering exclusive hand-made items, unique gifts and delicious seasonal foodie treats. The diverse range of street food traders adding a cosy sparkle to an evening stroll around the city. It runs from Dec 5-21.

Make the most of your visit by choosing one of the curated trails: ‘Light’ (commissioned artworks), ‘Discovery (exhibitions, talks, tours), ‘Live’ (dance, music, theatre), ‘Family’ (activities to enjoy together) or discover your own route around the festival.

Oxford Christmas Lights Festival runs over the weekend of Friday 15th to Sunday 17th November 2019, Find out more at oxlightfest.com 

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