Becky Paton's Gentleman Jack

The month long Oxford Festival Of The ArtsRound The World In 80 Ways – kicks off on June 24 and is absolutely packed with cultural highlights from live music and theatre to art, comedy and classical. Experts from all over the world will enlighten us about history, science, the environment, maps, bell ringing, sculpture, medicine and so much more. There is also an extensive family and community based programme. READ ABOUT IT HERE:

But where to start? With so much to choose from here are our highlights:

  1. Shakespeare’s Globe: JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. Tuesday 19 – Sunday 24 July, MCS Grounds, A first for the festival and a massive coup, make sure you book a ticket here:
Julius Caesar by Shakesperare’s Globe

2) Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers (June 26) at New Theatre Oxford. Experience the power of heart-pounding rhythms on huge taiko drums, sharp synchronisation and high energy, in a spellbinding performance from Mugenkyo’s tribe of performers from across the globe. (Book here and

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers

3) E Lucevan le Stelle – Joseph Calleja with Simon Lepper, Sheldonian Theatre, July 7 – a performance that will surely melt everyone’s heart, featuring some of Calleja’s favourite songs and arias. Blessed with a golden-age voice Maltese-born Joseph Calleja has quickly become one of the most acclaimed and sought-after tenors today. A Grammy-nominated recording artist for Decca Classics, he has released five solo albums for the label.

Joseph Calleja

4) Gentleman Jack: Tuesday 28 June, JS Hall MCS. A typically brilliant and off-the-wall concept. Sally Wainwright commissioned mosaicist Becky Paton to create a mosaic portrait of Anne Lister (aka Gentleman Jack) in the image of the actor Suranne Jones, who played her in the acclaimed TVthat Sally wrote and directed. The exhibition of Becky’s work is taking place on the same evening that Sally Wainwright is in conversation with David Isaac at 8pm in the Festival Marquee.

Becky Paton’s Gentleman Jack

5) Brian Blessed, Festival Marquee, July 1. The larger-than-life actor, writer, adventurer, and raconteur, known for his hearty, king-sized portrayals on film, television and stage, ranging from BlackadderFlash GordonI Claudius to Shakespearean productions and musical theatre. Brian will combine anecdotes from his acting career with tales of his adventures as an avid mountaineer. Book here:

Brian Blessed

6) Gaia, the famous 6m touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram, runs from 24 June – 10 July at University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Featuring NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface showing our planet on a massive 3D scale, creating a feeling of awe for the planet, the interconnection of life and a sense of responsibility for the environment. Accompanied by a surround sound composition by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones. Gaia is free, booking not required.


7) Don’t miss Professor Sir Andrew Pollard in Conversation with Scott Crawford on July 4. He is of course Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at Oxford University, knighted in 2021 for services to Public Health, especially in the pandemic. He was the chief investigator for the clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in 2020, used in more than 175 countries with over 2.5 billion doses distributed by the end of 2021. Looks set to be a fascinating evening. Book here

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard. photo (c) John Cairns

8) An Evening with Fran Lebowitz (June 27) New Theatre Oxford. An American original, and purveyor of urban cool, the cultural satirist and author is pointed, forthright, and known for her hilariously dry social commentary on American life. Lebowitz’s recent Netflix documentary series was an unmitigated hit. Lebowitz will be sharing her invariably cutting take on anything and everything. (Book here –

9) WORLD PREMIERE – Brand-new musical Birdland, Oxford Playhouse, June 30-July 2 – a community opera for children written by renowned choral composer Bob Chilcott and award-winning poet/librettist Charles Bennett, involving MCS and 400 children from seven local primary schools. Birdland features Pip, a young sparrow desperate to join the prestigious Dawn Chorus, but they’ve got other ideas. Will Pip sell his soul or will he find his true voice? Age 7+. Book here

10) Live shoot and An Evening with Rankin, June 30, Festival Marquee. Having shot everyone from Kate Moss, the Rolling Stones, and Britney Spears to the fearless NHS staff working on the front lines, Rankin will also offer members of the festival audience the opportunity to join his iconic back catalogue. In conversation with actor, writer and presenter Katie Reddin-Clancy, Rankin will uncover his industry-shaping creative process and inspirations.


11) Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Saturday 2 July | 11am-4pm, Broad Street – Fall down the rabbit hole with The Story Museum and Fairtrade at St Michael’s, dress up as your favourite Wonderland character. Take a seat at the party and sample Fairtrade delights, play party games with giant Alice and her amazing talking flowers, meet the White Rabbit – but watch out for the Red Queen! There will be face painting, crafts, a special Fairtrade baking competition, games, dancing and much more!

PHOTO: Andrew Walmsley

12) Comedy Night: Phil Wang, Rosie Jones & Olga Koch, July 4, Festival Marquee, c/o Jericho Comedy for an incredible evening of comedy. You are guaranteed a hilarious gut-wrenching evening of laughs! With such a great line-up, this is set to be one of the biggest and best comedy nights in Oxford’s calendar, so grab a ticket while you can! Book here

Comedy Night

13) Humanity and Liberty: Tenebrae Choir with Juliet Stevenson. Wednesday July 6. SJE Arts at St John the Evangelist Church. Award-winning choir Tenebrae presents a dramatic programme based on peace and respect for our environment. It encompasses Rudolf Mauersberger‘s work in memory of the bombing of Dresden, and Philip Moore’s based on theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work while in a Nazi prison camp. Plus Roderick Williams’ Lucis Creator optime, and Josephine Stephenson’s Into the Wreck, featuring acclaimed actor Juliet Stevenson. Concludes with Poulenc’s response to the occupation of Paris in WW2 Figure Humaine. Book

Tenebrae with Juliet Stephenson. photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

14) FILMFEST: THE TRUTH July 9/10. A weekend of film at The Ultimate Picture Palace based on humanity, ‘home’, and truth. Starring La Vita è Bella, Child Migrant Stories: Voices, The Singing Revolution and Hostile. Book here


15) ALL DAY BAZAAR: Cultures, Crossings and Communities, Saturday 25 June, Festival Marquee – an all-day bazaar featuring community groups, food, goods, art and music. Students from diverse communities in local schools will hold open discussions and Syrian musician Maya Youssef is hosting workshops. A panel discussion will then be chaired by BBC Political Correspondent Rob Watson, with Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, Afghan children’s rights activist Freshta Karim, longtime Leader/Shadow Leader of House of Lords, Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College (one of Oxford University’s two Colleges of Sanctuary), Labour City Councillor Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini and Director of Asylum Welcome, Mark Goldring CBE.

Rob Watson

For the full schedule of Oxford Festival Of The Arts which runs from June 24-July 25 go to: