South Parks is famous for its views over the spires of the city (as well as being the bane of any cross-country runner) and later this month, from the 26th to the 28th of September, it will play host to a brand new festival: OxfordOxford, one that promises to be so good, they’ve named it twice. It’s the brainchild of E11E entertainment director and Oxford Brookes alumnus Owen Kent, who was inspired by the vibrancy of Reading and Electric Picnic festivals to work in the events industry. The key difference with OxfordOxford is that it hopes to celebrate the community of the city hand in hand with culture.
Like many students old and current, he is familiar with the Oxford music scene, recalling the highs of gigs at “Zodiac, Pub Oxford, Jericho Tavern, Bullingdon and Wheatsheaf” and the lows of “DJ Luck and MC Neat at Park End… and an incredibly awkward experimental music half hour on the Cowley Road”. He is thrilled to be finally going live with a project which has been years in the making: “I lived on Cowley Road while studying music at Brookes and became infatuated with Oxford and its music scene. As a student I wanted to develop an event for the City and after nearly 10 years of planning it’s amazing to have this opportunity”. As for the name, Kent explains that “my business partner, Anthony Norris, was the brain behind it, basing on the concept of New York, New York”.
In its inaugural year, the ambitious programming promises a soaring start to what might, with support from the people of Oxford, become a regular feature in the city’s already hectic schedule. Of course, to stand out among the many events already out there, something new has to be introduced to the stage, and this festival promises to uniquely dedicate each of its three days to film, music and community.
The flavour of the festival’s Film Friday is indiscriminate interactivity, with the programme headed up by a sing-along version of Grease and a dance-along version of Dirty Dancing (it hasn’t been confirmed whether fancy dress is recommended in order to add to the effect). Some will jump at the chance of singing along to the lyrics of ‘Grease Lightning’, and for those who are apprehensive that any attempt to emulate the moves of Patrick Swayze will result in nothing but embarrassment, the screenings of Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, or of 80s classics Top Gun and The Goonies might make preferable viewing on the 32-foot cinema screen.
Electonic groups Tuung and Pixel Fix (an act tipped for great things by the festival’s directors) are amongst the healthy line up of acts with Oxfordshire links set to make an appearance on the music Saturday, and in the spirit of this, the BBC’s Introducing stage will host local acts and Oxford circuit regulars Flights of Helios, Balloon Ascents and pop rock trio Robot Swans. Well established names from beyond the county make an appearance too, having been won over by the concept behind the festival. Klaxons, fresh from the release of album Love Frequency and making an Oxford exclusive appearance for 2014 will headline the Saturday, with support from Katy B and Gaz Coombes (the former Supergrass frontman and Oxford local, with a host of solo accolades under his belt). There’s also a set presented by Movement Records, featuring Michael Kiwanuka and Celeste in what the directors hope will be a “house-band style showcase of the label’s talents”.
A cornerstone of the festival is its important partnerships: official charity partner, Oxfam, Oxford City Council and of course the local community and small businesses (residents of the city and beyond with an OX postcode get a special discount for the entire weekend). As an all-encompassing festival, its organisers promise it will bring out the best of Oxford’s cultural pedigree (G&Ds, Missing Bean and the Oxford University Quiddich team all make an appearance on Sunday) within a line up worthy of larger festivals in even larger fields, but brought alive in the surroundings of a unique city (without the camping). And while it has been a event which has remained relatively under the radar until recently, the entire billing, from Film Friday to “something-for-everyone Sunday”, is definitely something to get very excited about before the start of term.