One of the busiest weekends of the year will bring in visitors to Oxfordshire and give businesses a boost. Andrew Ffrench and Tim Hughes look forward to Oxford’s Cowley Road Carnival, Alice’s Day, the Cornbury Festival and the Yeah Baby! festival ALMOST every weekend during the summer months in Oxfordshire there is a music festival, summer fete or special anniversary for residents to celebrate.
But this weekend seems extra special with several showcase events delighting crowds over the next two days.
While thousands of people will turn out in East Oxford for the Cowley Road Carnival, music lovers are gathering at Great Tew Park in North Oxfordshire for the Cornbury Festival.
And in Abingdon, on a much smaller scale, the town’s Market Place will host the sixth annual Yeah Baby! music festival, organised by the Amber Phillpott Trust.
North-east of Oxfordshire, thousands of F1 fans are gathering at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, while in the south Henley Regatta continues over the weekend.
“It has to be the busiest weekend of the year and all the visitors coming into the Oxfordshire must be worth millions of pounds to the county,” said Giles Ingram, chief executive of tourism group Experience Oxfordshire.
“Hotels and restaurants are very busy and there are lots of no vacancies signs up.”
City council leader Bob Price added: “It’s a phenomenal weekend for Oxford – these community events have really grown over the last few years.”
The biggest event of the weekend in Oxfordshire, and arguably the one that has needed the most planning and preparation, is the Cowley Road Carnival on Sunday.
Icolyn ‘Ma’ Smith, who runs a community soup kitchen at the Asian Cultural Centre in Manzil Way, will be running a stall at the carnival.
She has been involved every year since the festival 2001, and said she will be cooking fried chicken and curried lamb to raise funds for her kitchen.
Mrs Smith, 83, from Oxford, said: “The Cowley Road Carnival is a great tradition and brings people in the community together.
“With so many people coming to the Cowley Road it’s good for businesses, especially the restaurants.
“I will do all the food preparation on Saturday and then I will get up at 4am on Sunday and arrive at the kitchen at 6am to do all the cooking.”
Icolyn ‘Ma’ Smith will have a stall at Sunday’s Cowley Road Carnival
More than 35,000 people turned up last year, with more than 100 live music acts performing, and organisers are expected a similar-sized crowd.
Funding of almost £100,000 has been raised by Cowley Road Works, or donated to pay for the carnival, which starts at noon and ends at 6pm.
Danielle Battigelli, chief executive of Cowley Road Works and organiser of the carnival, said: “There are about 100 volunteers and they will be working hard to set up stages from dawn on Sunday, with the road itself closed from 8am.
“Final instructions will be going out to our volunteers right up until the latest minute.”
The main procession, of up to 700 people, will start at 2.15pm and is expected to last for about 90 minutes.
Oxford Faces is this year’s theme, to celebrate the city’s diversity.
Kleiner Shames prepares a mural on the corner of Randolph Street amid hectic preparations for Sunday's Cowley Road Carnival
Fictional faces from Alice in Wonderland, Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will all feature in the parade. Pupils from Cheney and East Oxford primary schools will dress up as gargoyles.
The Mini plant in Cowley, the carnival’s main sponsor, will lead the procession, represented by a group from Pegasus Theatre. Many of the groups will show off the multicultural face of the city, including people from Indonesia, Nepal, Africa, Nigeria, Ireland and Oxford’s twin town Leon in Nicaragua.
Miss Battigelli added there were more than 25 venues for music, art and dance, and two big stages.
She said: “If the sun comes out there is nothing quite like the carnival and even if it doesn’t there will still be plenty going on.
“The locals come along but the carnival attracts people from a wide area now, from around Oxfordshire and beyond.
“Fundraising started before Christmas and we are just a few thousand pounds short of our fundraising tarrget.
“If everyone who comes to the carnival donates a £1, it would raise £35,000, giving us a solid foundation for next year.
“We are working closely with the organisers of Alice’s Day and our message to people is dress up and come down.
“But we are asking people to leave their cars at home and use public transport or come in by bike or on foot.
“The carnival will be good for businesses – even some charity shops stay open.”
PRIMARY school pupils in Oxford will crack codes today as part of the city’s Alice Day celebrations.
Youngsters from two primary schools – East Oxford and Sandhills Community – will take part in the activities today to begin the fun for Alice’s Day tomorrow.
Today’s activities will take place at the Story Museum in Pembroke Street and at the Museum of Natural History in Parks Road.
Jules Potter shuffles the giant playing cards at The Story Museum
Alex Coke, Alice’s Day coordinator, said: “We got 10,000 people along to Alice’s Day events last year and we are hoping for a similar number this year.
“Tourists come for the event and we have got some visitors flying in from Pennsylvania in the United States.
“There will be storytelling, exhibitions, workshops and talks from the Lewis Carroll Society and most events are free.
“A map and guide tying in with the Cowley Road Carnival will be on sale for 50p.
“Alice’s Day has to be good for business with people visiting shops and restaurants and buying ice creams.”
Honor Dawkins-Stean downsizes ready to play Alice
Children will decipher codes inspired by Lewis Carroll’s own invention, the Nyctograph, which allows you to write secret messages in the dark.
Alice’s Day remembers Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, the Oxford don who created his children’s stories after taking Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boat trip on the Thames in 1862.
The first Alice’s Day took place in 2007 and this year venues include the Ashmolean, the Bodleian, the Story Museum and the Botanic Garden.
Cornbury Music Festival opened its gates yesterday, with the first of 20,000 people arriving with tents and deck chairs for a long weekend of live entertainment.
Music gets under way on the main stage today, continuing through to Sunday night.
The event is headlined by 80s rock band Simple Minds, Latin party band The Gipsy Kings and boogie-woogie bandleader Jools Holland.
Hugh Phillimore in front of the stage
Festival director Hugh Phillimore predicted great things for the festival, which began in 2004 at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury, switching to its present home at Great Tew Park three years ago.
Mr Phillimore said: “We are going to be lucky with the set-up and are hoping the weather continues throughout the weekend.
“I’ve been so embroiled in technical stuff I haven’t had much time to think about the music, and will only relax once I hear the first note being played.”
There is also a fairground, children’s zone with arts and crafts, and a Festival of Words hosted by the team behind TV’s QI. There is also a line-up of comedians, including Jeremy Hardy, Mark Watson, Miles Jupp and ‘pub landlord’ Al Murray.
Tickets start at £170 (£200 with camping).
Single day, young people’s, children’s and VIP tickets are also available.
YEAH BABY FESTIVAL
JAMES Phillpott and Fleur Tinson founded the Amber Phillpott Trust after losing their 18-year-old daughter Amber to acute myeloid leukaemia in 2011.
Tomorrow a music festival organised by the trust will be held in Abingdon Market Place and other venues in the town.
Amber Cotton had her face painted and met Mini Mouse at last year's Yeah Baby festival
Mr Phillpott will perform Highlife, a song he wrote for his daughter, and the headline acts will be Luciee Marie Closier, a contestant on BBC show The Voice, and former Supergrass member Mick Quinn and the DB Band.
Mr Phillpott said: “I think we will get a couple of thousand people along throughout the course of the day. Overall we have 15 acts and the festival is gaining momentum every year.”
The Amber Phillpott Trust has raised £60,000 towards research into the cancer.
The festival also raises money for Helen and Douglas House hospice for children and young people in East Oxford, Oxford Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House, where parents of sick children at the hospital can stay overnight. The festival has raised £35,000 for these charities over the past five years.