A bonanza weekend in store for Oxford

By Sarah Edwards

Cowley Road’s Carnival will be part of a two day festival organised by Cowley Road Works this weekend. Traditionally the carnival is on the first Sunday in July, but this year the festivities will be launched with a pyrotechnic extravaganza in South Park on Saturday.
Colossus Awakes marks the opening of Carnival with an awesome display of performance, fireworks and atmospherics in a jaw dropping show that must not be missed. This amazing outdoor spectacle, supported by the Arts Council, will light up the night sky from 9.30 pm (arrive at 9 pm). Completely free, the event is suitable for all ages.
The second half of the performance is in the procession on Carnival Day, July 2, and this year, the proceedings start an hour earlier at 11 am and will run until 5 pm. Shops and venues from the Plain to Magdalen Road will be taken over by performers, stalls, attractions and activities. The procession starts at 12.30 pm from The Plain.
The mile-long procession will include approximately 600 people from around 30 community groups and schools, many will have designed their group costumes around the theme this year ‘technology and industry’.
For the first time, the Harwell Campus is bringing world class science to the Carnival. The European Space Agency is just one of the partners that will be in the Science Zone, which stretches from Temple Street to Stockmore Street. At St Mary and St John’s church there will be a Discovery Zone, with The Pitt Rivers museum leading drum making workshops.
At the church hall and new for this year, there is the Old Curiosity Shop, run by Age UK where there is tea, cake and plenty of fun activities including arts and digital workshops.
At the heart of the festival site the Carnival Music Stage will feature live music throughout the afternoon from bands including carnival favourties, Zaia, Ran Kan Kan and dance from Sol Samba and 1 Afro Fusion. On the other side of Manzil Way the Carnival Village Green has fairground rides Cyc du Soleil’s spoken word stage, a climbing wall, keepy-uppy football and the Chamberlain Evans selfie stall where your selfie mugshot could win you prizes of up to £250.
Manzil Way will be transformed into Market Street for the day, where there will be more stalls packed with a cornucopia of food and unusual things to buy as well as fun activities and community groups. Just off market street there is the beautiful Restore garden which will be programmed with acoustic music on the small stage there and the café will be open for teas and treats.
The Indonesian Community Stall has always been one of the most popular places for food. This year there is a whole zone dedicated to Little Indonesia and not only can you eat some of the best food to be found at the festival, but also see batik fabric being printed.
Oxford Brookes University has pulled out all the stops and you can meet Artie, the robot and as well as his partner, Martie, the robot made specially for the procession. Brookes Sport has teamed up with colleagues from The GB Paralympic Rowing Support Team and Oxford United Women’s Super League. Go to the Brookes Zone to find out about the training and expertise behind Great Britain’s Paralympic rowing team, and take a closer look at the kit used by elite athletes including carbon seat, 3D printed leg support, new e-legs, ergometers. There will be a ‘try it out’ corner with adapted seats and a 100m rowing challenge running throughout the day. Oxford United Women’s Super League will be on hand running a children’s ‘keepy up’ competition, with captain Lauren Haynes making a player’s appearance – as well as the chance to win a signed Taome Oliver match shirtVisit the Brookes bus for a health check and there will be loads more fun and games as well as the Brookes professor on stilts, a Carnival regular.
Young families can head straight to Dingley Dell, a secluded spot where you can sit on the grass and grab a blanket. There will be family music, crafts for toddlers, a merry-go-round and bouncy castle suitable for little ones, a ball pool – and for the grown-ups there is a gin bar.
Groups with Dancin’ Oxford are performing all types of dance from Bollywood to Burlesque on the Global Dance Stage at the Asian Cultural Centre.
Young Women’s Music Project have taken over the Kate Garrett stage outside the O2 Academy. Team Drum, a drum troupe run by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani, the Director of YWMP will be performing as well as Jen Berkova, Suzy Bowtel, Ally Guppy Death of the Maiden, Destiny Shore, The Kites, Lyrical Leigh, Chukie, Kourtney & Christina.
All the way from Liverpool The Threshold Stage brings together a diverse wealth of artists, and musicians to Oxford.
Cari-fest will be back at the East Oxford Community Centre with DJs, playing Caribbean music, SOCA and reggae and mouth-watering Caribbean food.
The Cowleyroad.org history project is showing an interactive installation bringing a photographic archive to the street. Carnivalgoers will be able to walk down a miniature Cowley Road showing every building in a winding corridor, which they can annotate with facts and memories. Alongside the installation, volunteer work will begin on Carnival day to compile a photographic record of Cowley Road life in 2017.
Last, but by no means least, will be the festival within a festival at the Car Park. There will be two stages featuring live music on one and DJs playing types of dance at the other from funk and disco to trance and house.
Johannah Aynsley, Executive Director of the Carnival said: “This is definitely the most exciting Carnival yet. First of all we are now a two-day festival and our big weekend launches with Colossus Awakes, a free community event supported by a grant from Arts Council England, which will really kick off the Carnival with a big bang. The pyrotechnics need to be seen to be believed.
“Then on Carnival Day there are many new attractions. We are welcoming the Threshold festival to programme a stage all the way from Liverpool, and the Science zone features world class science for the Harwell Campus. And Oxford Brookes are bringing Artie the robot – I lam looking forward to meeting him.
“We also welcome the Indonesian Embassy as new sponsors of our new Little Indonesia zone in the Restore Car Park and Templars Square who will be running competitions and giving out vouchers for shops in the centre.”
For more information go to www.cowleyroadcarnival.co.uk