As we zoom ever nearer to 5th week, Turl Street, land of the Missing Bean,
Turl Street Kitchen and numerous shops as browsable as Diagon Alley
will soon be transformed into the site of the annual Turl Street Arts Festival. I met the festival’s president, Ashleigh Tilley, and its Secretary, Owen Donovan, in the lively hub of Queen’s Lane Coffee House – but even this seems a slight betrayal of those two friendly cafés on Turl Street.
The festival has been going on as far back as Tilley can remember, but the focus this year is on organising events which cover a whole range of ‘arty’ genres such as film, music and drama. Apart from the launch party at the Cellar on Thursday 7th February, there is everything from a live comedy night with a set by Rhys Maliphant from the Oxford Revue, to live poetry readings in the Missing Bean on the 14th (according to Owen this is “the best alternative
Valentine’s Day”, and they’ll even be putting candles on the tables.)
Another event which the committee are particularly excited about is the play You Maverick, written by Matt Parvin. The postgrad has written two plays for previous Turl Street festivals, including A Row of Parked Cars, which went on to have a re-run in the Burton Taylor. For audience members who have seen Parvin’s plays before, You Maverick is apparently much darker than the other two, which were more comedy-dramas – “although one did end with someone hanging themselves”, admits Donovan, so perhaps we need not fear anything too unrecognisably different from this highly successful playwright.
And how are the committee finding it? Stressful, obviously, but also highly enjoyable; “I think we’re going to be running around for a week – but I wouldn’t have it any other way!” says Tilley. You may well have heard vaguely
about the festival weeks ago when the committee began sending out emails to Oxford students asking for poetry submissions for their competition, culminating in the best ones (between 30 and 40, they think) being read aloud
and going into a printed anthology – another mammoth organisational feat. I ask how many entries they’ve had, and apparently it’s over 90, which suggests an encouraging amount of interest in the festival among students.
Ticket prices are all very reasonable. Whilst some events are free, others such as the live comedy night will be around £4, good value considering that the night will consist of seven acts and be “incredibly long” (though there’s no need to worry; the committee are scheduling in at least one interval, to
allow sufficient time to reach the front of the Jesus College Bar.)
The whole ethos of the festival is clearly a friendly one; many of the acts are coming for free for which the committee are incredibly grateful. “In an ideal world we’d have loads of money and be able to pay everyone,” says Donovan, but given that they aren’t particularly wealthy I find it even more admirable that the money being raised from the closing party in Exeter on 16th February is going to ExVac, the college’s own charity which funds holidays for children who for one reason or another are not usually able to
get away from home.
All in all 5th week promises to be a good one:they say college loyalty neverfalters but the appeal of living in Exeter, Jesus and Lincoln is clear to see.