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Cowley Road Carnival cancelled after fundraising shortfall

The Cowley Road Carnival is Oxfordshire’s biggest public free event and was anticipated to return for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. However, failing to raise the £20,000 required to go ahead, it has been cancelled. 

It was hoped that with Covid restrictions lifted, the event would return with the theme of “Our Nature Our Future” on Sunday 9th July. But even after Cowley Road Works’s Just Giving appeal raised £2,329, the organisers announced “with deep regret” that they would cancel the carnival due to “several significant challenges”.

In their statement, Cowley Road Carnival organisers point to unforeseen financial obstacles, with quotes for certain “crucial Carnival services” having increased by 177% this year. 

They also cite time constraints, infrastructure costs, a reduced grant from Oxford City Council of £7000 which they claim is a reduction from the usual £25,000 as well as an unsuccessful application for £29,000 from the Arts Council.

The carnival, which normally takes place on Cowley Road, usually included live music and DJ performances as well as processions, Eco Floats and House Floats. Known to bring in 50,000 spectators, the event has been Oxfordshire’s biggest public free event.

The organisers, Cowley Road Works, say “the Carnival is inclusive: it brings together all ages, and all ethnic, social and economic groups and is the culmination for our cultural outreach programme.”

The Carnival had planned to include 1,000 artists and 700 procession participants. Its overall estimated cost was £130,000.

Carnival Trustee Sarah Connor explained, “we understand the immense disappointment this announcement may bring to our community, stakeholders, and supporters who have eagerly awaited the return of this cherished event.

Hope remains as two pubs, James Street Tavern and Black Swan, have announced that they are planning “mini festivals” in lieu. The organisers of the Carnival say that “we are already planning for an amazing Carnival in 2024.”

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