A scene from last year's Light Festival celebrations

Oxford will light up once again as some of the city’s most iconic buildings take centre stage for this year’s Christmas Light Festival this month.

Films will be projected onto Oxford’s famous architecture as part of the city’s celebrations, while roving artwork travels around the city by bike.

Join a light workshop, marvel at the commissioned dance films, enjoy 19 community dance groups work, feature on the light trail, listen to Chirp&Drift’s sound and art installation, check out the Mobile Parklet touring the city and so much more. From Blackbird Leys to Cowley Road and Oxford city centre, it’s all going on.

The Christmas Light Festival has been a major event since it launched in 2009, drawing people into the city centre for a weekend of extraordinary activities.

Local street champions can register for their street to take part and even apply for a grant

Originally a one-day event it has, over the years, extended to three days involving more than 25 local cultural partners, more than 27,000 participants and giving 100,000 experiences to over 40,000 people over the weekend.

Chirp & Drift from OCM and audio visual artist Kathy Hinde

This year it will feature a different programme due to the restrictions required during the Coronavirus outbreak with most events happening in a socially distanced form in local communities and online.

The festival is launched on Friday 20 November at 4pm by regular festival artists Luxmuralis and Fusion Arts. Inspired by the collections of our leading museums, their film can be watched on digital platforms and via the festival website http://oxlightfest.com from the comfort of home, heralding the start of Oxford’s Light Festival 2020. 

It can then be watched at MAO and OFS galleries in Oxford once they are open to the public.

Painting by Richard Hunt for Luminous an online exhibition

There will be three strands of activities that families and individuals around the city can get directly involved with: Make an illumination, Local Light Trails and Doorstep Celebration. 

The lantern parade has been updated with workshops by IF Oxford, the festival of Science and Ideas and Fusion Arts, whose six weekly online Glow Your Own virtual classes to make programmable light displays and illuminated window scenes.

A scene from last year’s Light Festival

Households are being encouraged to decorate their windows, doors, balconies and gardens for local light trails over the weekend. Local street champions can register for their street to take part and even apply for a grant. All the registered streets and illuminations will appear on a light trail map on the festival website. 

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Minister for Culture and City Centre said: “This year’s Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is important for our local communities to share in some uplifting creativity. The wonderful ideas and activities being offered under the festival banner mean we can all enjoy the fun and spectacle in our homes and around our local areas. Bringing the festival out into the community this way is inspiring and I hope everyone will get involved.”

There will be live streamed work including a collection of dance performances. The Global Film project, a live digital premiere, demonstrates the wonderful vibrancy and diversity of dance in our city, and our twin cities, with the help of Dancin’ Oxford.

Stained glass window design at The North Wall art centre, part of a local light trail.

​The 4-min film features ​19 dance groups, of all ages, from right across Oxford, alongside 6 groups from Ramallah (Palestine), 3 groups from Perm (Russia) and a group from Grenoble (France).​

Another novel project from Tandem Collective, Oxford Playhouse and the Old Fire Station, asks the question “what could you do with a piece of land the size of a parking space?” Artist Nor will be using ideas generated by the public to create a window installation in Cowley.

Chirp&Drift is a sound and art installation commissioned by OCM from artist Kathy Hinde. Recollecting the sounds of birds during lockdown, the installation is made of a flock of illuminated instruments that chatter in morse code. The public can interact with the installation through a live Twitter feed and is being streamed on Facebook, YouTube and the festival website http://oxlightfest.com

Creatures of the Night by Oxford University Museum of Natural History highlights the importance of moths as part of our ecosystem. Study the museum’s collection and create a moth themed winter lantern to display with an artist from Fusion Arts.

Glow Up will be created by students from EMBS college and Film Oxford who have made a light graffiti installation of short films and animations inspired by the festival themes shown at http://oxlightfest.com

Windows of Kindness is a large-scale installation created by The Roarsomes, a collective of six young disabled artists. Their piece will feature a massive LED lit window sharing messages of kindness to be displayed at the ARK-T Centre. Since lockdown in March, The Roarsomes have been unable to meet in person, but have gathered weekly online to learn new skills and work with artist Groovy Su, supported by Cowley Road Carnival.

Despite the lack of crowds, this year’s Oxford Light Festival will still be stunning and interactive

A Festival Bus will tour Oxford over the weekend, its journey illuminated by starry lights and stained-glass window designs by students from City of Oxford College with street artist Mani.

This year’s virtual music stage gives new artists a platform. Listen to the talented students from the City of Oxford College sharing their new tracks.

The festival website is a hub of information showing how to get involved locally and includes resources, how-to videos, galleries of images showing what people have made and details of what’s happening in local communities. http://oxlightfest.com

The 2020 festival is being led by Oxford City Council and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. 

The festival runs from November 20-22 throughout the whole city with opportunities for everyone to get involved. To find out all the details visit oxlightfest.com

SARAH EDWARDS

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