Akram Khan-Chotto Desh . image Camilla Greenwell

As Oxford Festival Of The Arts prepares to kick off in style around the city from June 27-July 14, here are our TOP 15 picks from a fantastically diverse, eclectic and exciting programme spanning the arts. So get booking because it’s selling out fast!

1) PRISM Fenella Humphreys, violin, July 9, Magdalen College Chapel, 6.30pm. The award winning violinist is one of the UK’s most established and versatile performers, and will focus on new unaccompanied violin works by young British composers alongside established compositions by Caroline Shaw, Jessie Montgomery and George Walker, plus Fenella’s new arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue BWV565. She will then be joined by multi-award-winning writer, historian, and public speaker Dr Leah Broad for a discussion and Q&A on 20th century women in the arts. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/prism-fenella-humphreys/

Fenella Humphreys credit Matthew Johnson

2) Andromeda by Minas Vintiadis, Saturday 29 June, 7.30pm, Old Fire Station – a new play inspired by Urania, the muse of astronomy and stars, brought to you by Theatre Lab Company – known for their visually stunning work. Featuring Adrianna, who loves the stars and space, the tragic death of her parents in a plane crash kept her firmly rooted on earth until her uncle enables a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Mars on ‘The Arc’ spacecraft. With a Q&A afterwards. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/andromeda/


3) Dame Sarah Connolly, July 5, 7.30pm, SJE Arts performs intimate lieder and song cycles in Pas de trois: Gustav Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Alma Mahler, tying into the festival’s Muse theme by depicting The ultimate femme fatale: Alma Mahler, with the music of Gustav Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Alma Mahler herself – the femme fatale in Vienna who enchanted society and artists like Walter Gropius, Oscar Kokoschka, Zemlinksy, and of course her husband Gustav Mahler. With Joseph Middleton on piano. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/dame-sarah-connolly-with-joseph-middleton/

Dame Sarah Connolly

4) The English National Opera Orchestra with Tenor Joseph Calleja. June 27. Oxford Town Hall. 7.30pm. The award-winning and much-loved ENO Orchestra brings Recondita Armonia – a night at the opera, to Oxford for one night only! Maltese-born Joseph Calleja has quickly become one of the most acclaimed and sought-after tenors today and together they will perform Verdi, Puccini, Bizet and Lehár, together with a few surprises, featuring some of Calleja’s favourite arias and songs, alongside exhilarating orchestral works, conducted by Richard Farnes. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/eno-with-joseph-calleja/

Joseph Calleja. credit Andrew Borg Carabott

5) Akram Khan Company: Chotto Desh, Oxford PlayhouseSaturday July 6 at 2pm and 7pm. One of the most innovative dance companies in the world, the Olivier award-winning solo show DESH is a heart-warming story about a young man trying to find his place in the world. Drawing on Khan’s unique cross-cultural storytelling, this compelling tale of a boy’s dreams and memories, from Britain to Bangladesh, celebrates the resilience of the human spirit by blending Kathak and contemporary dance with spoken text, animation, visuals and specially composed music. An enchanting and poignant dance-theatre experience for all the family. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/akram-khan-chotto-desh/

Akram Khan-Chotto Desh . image Camilla Greenwell

6) Festival Cèilidh with Moonaroon, Tuesday 2 July, Festival Hall, Magdalen College School. 7.30pm. Learn the moves and then join the barn dance in a thrilling night of dancing rooted in tradition with fabulous fiddles and irresistible rhythms. Perfect for dancers from beginners to veterans, the band was founded in Oxford’s Half Moon pub, and have been performing together since 2019 with a traditional Irish sound. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/festival-ceilidh-with-moonaroon/


7) Free open day to Lightshadow: Sculpture by Johannes von Stumm, New College. Wednesday 10 July. Over 40 years of combining metal with glass and stone are evident in this deeply moving exhibition, where the sculptor fuses the light and the dark, the solid and the liquid, the opaque and the transparent, strength and fragility into depictions of balance. READ ABOUT IT HERE The exhibition runs until August 27 from 10am – 5pm every day https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/lightshadow-johannes-von-stumm/

Johannes von Stumm

8) Nine Jazz Muses – Steve Kershaw Trio and artist Victoria Topping, July 9, Festival Hall, Magdalen College School. 7.30pm. A multimedia experience of live jazz musical performance, original artwork, narration, and visual projection inspired by, and musically and thematically linked, to the nine muses on top of the Clarendon Building on Broad Street. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/nine-jazz-muses-with-steve-kershaw-trio/

Nick Vintskevich performs the Nine Muses

9) On The Wings Of The Green Fairy, Absinthe Tasting at The Parlour, Lynrace Spirit, Jericho. July 10, 7.30pm. The festival is delighted to be presenting absinthe tastings in this year’s programme. Shrouded in romance and intrigue, absinthe is an anise-flavoured spirit made with aromatic botanicals, gaining notoriety for its alleged hallucinogenic powers and the source of inspiration for writers and poets across Europe in the late 19th century. Delve into the emerald mystery of absinthe in the Victorian-inspired parlour as you are guided through the history, science, and lore of this lauded, and much maligned, drink. Inspired by the 11 panel mosaic representing mythological scenes associating Bacchus/Dionysius with the nine muses. Price £50. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/absinthe-tasting/

The Parlour at Lynrace

10) The Muse: Double-Bill 28 June – 14 July, Kendrew Barn, St John’s College. The Modern Muse, by Arpita Shah, in collaboration with Photo Oxford; and Reframing the Muse, in collaboration with art historian, critic and writer, Ruth Millington. Exhibited alongside the work of textile artist Julia Engelhardt. There is also a panel discussion on Friday 28 June at 7.30pm with Ruth Millington, Oxford Festival of the Arts director Michelle Castelletti, Director of Photo Oxford Katy Barron, Arpita Shah and the artists whose work will be exhibited in this festival exhibition on the muse.

Urania’s love_Shanghai Flaneuse

11) Oxford Indie Summer Book Fair, July 6, Festival Hall, Magdalen College School. 11am-4.30pm – with over 60 exhibitors, there’ll be something for everyone of all ages and interests. Families are especially welcome. Meet local and national authors, artists and poets, buy their books, often at special book-fair prices, and even get a signed copy. Entrance is free https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/oxib-book-fair/

Oxford Indie Summer Book Fair

12) The Complete Bach Cello Suites, Recital One – Guy Johnston, violoncello. July 10, The Divinity School, Bodleian, 6pm. Powerful, moving, and virtuosic, the experience of the full six suites in one evening takes the audience through a variety of emotions thanks to Guy Johnston – one of the most exciting British cellists of his generation. The complete six suites will be divided into two performances: Bach Recital One is from 6pm and there will be an hour long interval before Bach Recital Two at 8pm. Buy separately or enjoy the Bach Complete package for the special price of £35 which includes a glass of wine at the interval. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/complete-bach-cello-suites-recital-one/

Guy Johnston

13) Noël Coward: Present Laughter, Saturday 29 June, 3pm (grounds open from 2pm) Changeling Theatre’s production features Garry Essendine – a superstar actor and personality, gracing the front covers of all the most fashionable magazines. The charismatic playboy is the toast of the town on both sides of the pond but while embarking on a world tour, he struggles to present his genuine self above the magnitude of his stage, screen and social media persona. A razor sharp and highly comic exploration of the ups and downs of fame brought up to date in the Instagram age. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/noel-coward-present-laughter/

Present Laughter

14 & 15) Closing Festival Weekend at the Ashmolean Museum, July 14: Family Festival of Archaeology – A weekend full of activities for all ages. Get creative and explore artwork on Saturday, or try your hand at being an archaeologist on Sunday. Both events explore the glorious Wilton Diptych, on loan from the National Gallery as part of their 200-year anniversary celebrations with lots of activities across the whole weekend, to celebrate the muses of history, music, and eloquence. As part of The national Festival of Archaeology you can also hear medieval stories and music, take a tour of the Conservation Laboratory, listen to a talk about medieval jewellery, see models in medieval fashion, make your own archaeological stratigraphy bottle, create a royal crown, or try your hand at medieval ring-making. Entrance is free https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/festival-of-archaeology-2/


Oxford Festival Of The Arts runs from June 27-July 14 with countless exciting events to enjoy. Details here https://artsfestivaloxford.org/whats-on/