By Barry Wood - Cherwell District Council leader

WITH the wintry weather firmly a thing of the past, it’s time to look forward to a brand new date for Bicester’s summer diary.

Bicester Festival is a new annual event which will bring the community together and celebrate your town’s cultural life, on June 16 and 17.

It is part of our drive to make Bicester a healthier and happier place to live and work and I’m keen for as many of you as possible to get involved.

We at Cherwell District Council are driving preparations for the festival with officer time and developer contributions, funding secured through the planning process. But it couldn’t be delivered without partnership working.

We’re collaborating with Bicester Town Council and a number of local schools, cultural organisations and volunteer groups to put a fantastic programme together. It includes music, dance, street theatre and more.

If we are truly to realise Bicester’s potential as a healthy, happy community, it is through neighbours, friends and families joining forces with local organisations such as the council. And already, the work that’s going into Bicester Festival is demonstrating the best of the town’s cooperative, creative spirit.

The weekend kicks off on Saturday with a rock choir, and closes with a chance for you to enjoy picnicking at the new Whitelands Farm Sports Ground, plus kite displays and the Bicester concert band.

In between, you can enjoy local and professional theatre and music performances in the Market Square, cycling piano and upright bass players, aerialists on Sheep Street and even an act billed as “the world’s only human flea circus”.

It’s not just a spectator event, though. And this is because a central part of our vision for Bicester is to help people feel more connected to the wider community, make the most of their public spaces and find the means to pursue their passions and interests amongst their neighbours.

There are lots of opportunities for you to join in: with kite making workshops, aerial workshops and a project to gather stories about the historical dovecote are all on offer. Lots of community groups and individuals have already signed up to exhibit in the Methodist Church, and there are more slots open to those who would like to throw their hats in the ring.

To anyone new to Bicester this is the perfect chance to get to know your town. And to anyone who feels lonely or would simply like to make more friends, put the third weekend of June in your diary.

Cherwell District Council is partially funding the Bicester Festival for the next three years, as well as raising funds from sponsors and charitable trusts. But we are already seeing signs that you and your community are willing to take ownership of it and - as is planned - make it independently run.

There are opportunities for volunteers and exhibitors to get involved, so if you think you would like to be part of this event, please contact