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Festivals & Music

Festivals & Music

Music might not be the first thing that jumps into your head when you think of Oxford. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a dusty, leather-bound book by its cover – the city has a vibrant musical scene for those who know where to look. Oxford is the city of Radiohead as well as more recent bands like The Foals and Stornoway. Let’s explore the musical world that raised these talented young artists…
 
For live music performances, there’s something to suit everyone in Oxford. There’s a wealth of classical music, which can be heard across the colleges and their chapels, with a lot more at Holywell Music Room. The oldest custom-built concert hall in Europe, this stunning old building opened in 1748 and still hosts regular concerts of chamber and ensemble music. The Bullingdon does a mean jazz night every Tuesday, while those in search of guitars and drums can generally count on underground hangout The Purple Turtle. The Wheatsheaf pub is primarily known for its comedy nights upstairs, but there are occasionally brilliant jazz and indie nights to be found in that intimate setting.
 
For nightlife, you can’t do better than The Cellar, set up among the warren of tunnels that connect the university’s colleges. The bar has been on the forefront of new music in the city, both live and electronic, and boasts Oxford’s longest-running reggae night. If you’re looking for a boogie and a cocktail with some of the younger crowd, try the Tiki-themed Lola Lo or student favourite Love Bar. These smaller venues often have the best atmosphere, but for the biggest acts you can check out the O2 Academy, which also hosts comedy and sports nights throughout the year.
 
The past decade has seen small and medium-sized music festivals springing up all over Europe, and Oxford is no exception. One of the best for contemporary music in the city is Common People, which takes place at South Park over the May Bank Holiday with a host of big acts. If your interests are more niche, you still don’t need to go far to find a great festival. Oxford May Music is a celebration of classical music and science unlike any other, while the annual autumn Chamber Music Festival invites world-renowned musicians to perform, with a different theme each year. Eco-conscious partygoers only need to look slightly further afield for a great camping festival, with the intimate Wood Festival near Wallingford and the famous peace-fest Wilderness, which encourages you to take a little time out from the busyness of everyday life.

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