There are lots of exciting things happening on Turl Street at the moment. Quite apart from the sudden appearance over the last two years of such establishments as the Missing Bean (now doing hot drinks in the EFL) and the Turl Street Kitchen (free wifi, yes please) transforming it into a kind of gastronomic ghetto, Lincoln, Jesus and Exeter have, once again, joined forces for the Turl Street Arts Festival. I’m still having difficulty ascertaining quite how long the festival has been going on for – the Jesus website informs me that it is, ‘as ever, taking place in fifth week,’ suggesting that it might just be written into the college statutes. No matter: what is important is that this year’s offering looks to be the best one in an age.
The Turl Street colleges are all old, small and honey-coloured. They are also rather insular institutions, without a big name commemoration ball or very cheap drinks one night of the week inciting people to break in (although, for the record, Lincoln bar is absolutely lovely). Joining together, then, is a very sensible idea, and allows them to showcase a vast catalogue of talents, skills and artsy things. There really is something for everyone here: Wednesday night shows them reaching out a hand to the art history Edgar Wind Society, for an evening talk at Lincoln by the Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in Scotland, while in Exeter chapel, Oxford Baroque are exploring some seventeenth and eighteenth century hits.
TSAF have tackled not only ‘things to watch and listen to’ but also a few which boast real life interaction. Two African Drumming Workshops are being held on Thursday afternoon at three and at four in the Oakschott Room at Lincoln, while Oxford Junto Society are also joining in, with an open discussion group on Art and its role in modern society being held in Lincoln’s chapel on Friday afternoon. Almost everything in the festival is free, providing a unique opportunity to hear some of Oxford’s best and brightest playing everything from Brahms to Joni Mitchell. There are, however, three ticketed events: a promising performance of West Side Story, the finale concert on Saturday night, and some new writing from Jesus College. The Turl Street Festival Orchestra joins forces with the Chorus to perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Mass in C Minor. This is lovely, dramatic music, played and performed by some of Oxford’s best.
Matthew Parvin’s The Players is a shambolic, and rather mad, take on a group of Elizabethan actors plagiarizing Hamlet, to very comic effect. This really is a must-see. Featuring actors from across the university, it is an amusing and well-written piece with the odd lucid – and occasionally very touching – observation on Life, Art and everything in between. Fitting for a festival that tackles all three so successfully.