The inaugural Oxford Festival of the Arts took place in June 2009. It was a modest affair with a couple of dozen events but even in its first year some of the highlights included talks by leading theatre director John Caird (OW 1966) and MP Tony Benn and a new commission written exclusively for the festival by composer Cecilia McDowall.
Over time the festival has grown its scope, duration and artistic aims, and is now a well-established highlight in the cultural calendar of Oxford.
Each year the festival offers a broad programme of events, embracing music, theatre, talks, comedy, film, literature, dance, art, photography and more. OFA celebrates Oxford’s diverse communities and offers something for everyone irrespective of age, background or artistic experience. It is a testament to the success of the Festival that it attracts nationally and internationally renowned artists and performers, and acts as an incubator for new works and arts-based initiatives.
The Arts are essential to humanity. Magdalen College School recognises this in every aspect, which is why the Oxford Festival of the Arts is an integral part of its fabric. It is a delight and an absolute privilege to be part of the MCS family.Dr Michelle Castelletti, Director, Oxford Festival of the Arts
The Festival works extensively with cultural partners across Oxford and further afield. Recent collaborators have included The Story Museum, Ludovica Rambelli Theatre, Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, Dancin’ Oxford, Mandala Theatre, Modern Art Oxford and many more.
Oxford offers many historic buildings and beautiful performance spaces and the Festival is able to use these to create unique experiences for audiences who may not have enjoyed the chance to visit them.
The Festival Director, Dr Michelle Castelletti, particularly enjoys being able to juxtapose performances and places such as silent films in the atmospheric setting of the Magdalen College Chapel and contemporary dance at The Old Fire Station.
In 2020 and 21 Coronavirus meant things were rather different and OFA was reinvented as a digital festival. OFA Virtual presented many thrilling and exclusive online events and gained a worldwide audience.
Like our rich, diverse, multicultural and fascinating city, the Arts are for everyone and I hope to keep growing the festival’s commitments to widen participation and embrace new challenges.Dr Janina Ramirez, Honorary Patron, Oxford Festival of the Arts
The two weeks of the Festival are simply the pinnacle of OFA’s activities, Partnership projects run throughout the year.
In 2021 over 100 budding young writers took part in the OFA short story competition. Together with the MCS Partnership Co-ordinator Mrs McDonough, OFA produced 150 Summer Holiday activity bags for 7-11-year-olds which were given out at Rosehill Community Larder and Blackbird Leys Larder. In partnership with Oxfordshire Artweeks OFA hosted an online gallery featuring over 50 entries from adults and children, amateurs, and professionals who responded to the OFA Phoenix-themed art project.
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