Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival - celebrating our communities

Published: Friday, 16th October 2020

Community based event takes place around the city and online.

Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival has traditionally been a major event drawing people into the city centre for a weekend of extraordinary activities for all. This year, from 20 to 22 November, the festival will take place in a safe, socially distanced way, both in communities and online.

The Festival launches on Friday 20 November at 4pm with the streaming of a film by regular festival artists Luxmuralis with Fusion Arts. Inspired by the collections of our leading museums, the film will be projected onto some of Oxford's iconic buildings. It can be watched on digital platforms and via the festival website from the comfort of home, marking the start of Oxford’s Light Festival 2020. 

More people can take part in an updated version of the lantern parade by creating their own illuminations along with projects to design illuminated window scenes. IF Oxford, the festival of Science and Ideas and Fusion Arts, are running a series of six weekly online workshops to make programmable light displays. Further ‘create and make’ resources will be shared on the festival website and households are being encouraged to decorate their windows, doors, balconies and gardens for local light trails over the weekend. Once registered via the website, streets will feature on a map of outdoor local light trails for people to safely share in their neighbour’s creations!

This year’s Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is an important opportunity for our local communities to share in a moment of uplifting creativity. The wonderful ideas and activities being offered under the festival banner mean we can all enjoy the fun and spectacle in our homes and around our local areas. Bringing the festival out into the community this way is inspiring and I hope everyone will get involved.

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Minister for Culture and City Centre

Other festival projects will be taking place around the city’s districts created by Oxford’s leading cultural organisations, including a roving artwork travelling around the city by bike, an illuminated collection of instruments playing tweets and a majestic stained glass window offering messages of hope. As well as the ‘make and create’ activities there will be live streamed work including a collection of dance performances by 28 groups from Oxford and twinned cities Ramallah, Perm and Grenoble. Many organisations will be working with community groups in specially adapted workshops and offering online activities. 

There will be three strands of activities that families and individuals around the city can get directly involved with: Make an illumination; Local Light Trails; Doorstep Celebration. 

Encouraging as much public involvement as possible there are ideas to inspire , based on thoughts that have very much been with us over the past months: The light that moves us forward; Build back better; Green recovery; My community; Real life heroes; Being thankful.

The festival website will be a hub of information showing how to get involved locally and includes resources, how-to videos, galleries of images showing what people have made and details of what’s happening in local communities.

The festival has spread over the whole city with opportunities for everyone to get involved. To find out all the details visit the Oxford Lights website here.


Notes for Editors

The 2020 festival is being led by Oxford City Council on behalf of, and with, a consortium of partners: Fusion Arts, Film Oxford, OCM (Oxford Contemporary Music), AOFS (Arts at the Old Fire Station) and Tandem Collective.

Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival has been held annually since 2009. Originally a one-day event it has, over the years, extended to three days involving more than 25 local cultural partners, more than 27,000 participants and giving 100,000 experiences to over 40,000 people over the weekend. 2020 will feature a different programme due to the restrictions required during the Coronavirus outbreak with most events happening in a socially distanced form in local communities and online.

See the Oxford Light Festival website here.

The Festival has been funded by Oxford City Council (https://www.oxford.gov.uk/) and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

The festival is sponsored by Oxford Business Park

The festival’s media partner - radio is Jack FM

Organisations taking part:

Activate Learning



Bodleian Libraries

Cowley Road Works

Dancin Oxford

Film Oxford

Fusion Arts

History of Science Museum

IF Oxford

Museum of Oxford

North Wall Arts Centre


Oxford Playhouse

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Pitt Rivers Museum

The Story Museum

Tandem Collective


Festival Highlights

Glow Your Own is a workshop series that uses a simple LED coding kit to create a personalised digital light display. Members of the public can take part in these workshops to learn how to make programmable illuminations for showing during the festival (Make an illumination). The workshops are taking place through October at the IF Oxford Festival and via the festival website in November. Kits are available to buy and the public can Buy One Give One Free for distribution to low income families.

Local Light Trails are community based events. Local street champions can register for their street to take part and even apply for a grant of £50 to organise resources for residents to make displays and illuminations for the trail. All the registered streets and illuminations will appear on a light trail map on the festival website. 

Doorstep Celebrations are an opportunity for local communities to show their creativity and, in an echo of the Clap for the NHS, bring people together for a moment of caring and sharing. The timing for these events will be organised locally through street champions.

Cultural partners have found many exciting ways to capture the spirit of the festival without gathering large crowds.

Mobile Parklet asks the question “what could you do with a piece of land the size of a parking space?” The project is the work of Tandem Collective, Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station. Artist Nor will be using ideas generated by the public during a series of online meetings, interviews and questionnaires to create an artwork that would fill a trailer the size of a parking space. During the festival weekend the Mobile Parklet will be toured around the city’s districts where people will be able to see it from their homes.

Chirp&Drift is a sound and art installation commissioned by OCM from artist Kathy Hinde. Recollecting the sounds of birds during the lockdown, the installation is made of a flock of illuminated instruments that chatter in morse code some of which is decoded into fragments of projected texts while some dissolves into nighttime whispers. The public can interact with the installation through twitter.

Global Film captures the energy, dynamism and spirit of the dance communities in Oxford and its twinned cities Ramallah (Palestine), Perm (Russia) and Grenoble (France). Dancin’ Oxford, who have presented a packed programme of dance on stage during past festivals, will be working alongside 19 groups and celebrating our international ties on screen.

Bringing Moths into the Light from Oxford University Museum of Natural History highlights the importance of moths as part of our ecosystem. Following a series of workshops in October, members of the public will be able to study the diversity of moths in the museum’s collection. With an artist from Fusion Arts participants can then create a moth themed winter lantern to display.

Glow Up will be created by students from EMBS college and Film Oxford. Throughout October the students will be working with Film Oxford to make a light graffiti installation of short films and animations inspired by the festival themes. These will be projected onto the outside walls of Glow Hall in Blackbird Leys during the festival weekend.

Windows of Kindness is a large-scale installation created by The Roarsomes, a collective of six young disabled artists. Their piece will feature a massive LED lit window sharing messages of kindness to be displayed at the ARK-T Centre. Since the lockdown in March, The Roarsomes have been unable to meet in person, some are shielding due to health conditions, but have gathered weekly online to learn new skills and work with artist Groovy Su and are supported by Cowley Road Carnival.

For more details, photographs or interviews contact:

Gill Jaggers

[email protected]

07961 922 301