The inaugural Oxford Festival of the Arts was launched 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 and MP Tony Benn and a new commission exclusively for the festival by composer Cecilia McDowall.
Over time the festival has grown its scope, duration and artistic aims, and twelve years on, the Oxford Festival of the Arts or OFA, is a well-established highlight in the cultural calendar of Oxford.
Each year the festival offers a broad programme of events, which embrace 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
We work extensively with cultural partners across Oxford and further afield. We have recently collaborated with Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, Queen Mary University London, The Oxford Playhouse, The Old Fire Station, Creation 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 things were a little different and like all other summer arts events, we had to postpone our physical festival. With just a few weeks to make it happen, we took the festival online with our first foray into digital performances. We presented an 18-day free festival that embraced dance, history, visual arts, politics, opera, theatre, jazz, choral and classical music and even cookery!
We are hugely grateful to the artists and creatives who were involved and to the sponsors that made it possible. To date, we have over 15,000 views of the performances and they can all be enjoyed on the archive page of our website.
The two weeks of the Festival are simply the pinnacle of our activities, our community engagement activities run throughout the year.
In 2018-19 over 3,000 children from 30 local schools were involved in projects as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts and many of these were showcased during the festival.
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