Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is back for 2021 with creative pop-ups in community hubs

Published: Wednesday, 27th October 2021

In 2020, Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival shifted its focus from the city centre to become an event based in our local communities.

This year the programme expands further into the city’s neighbourhoods and celebrates the Art of Connectivity over the weekend of 19 and 20 November.

In central Oxford, the weekend will kick off with the Christmas light switch-on on Friday evening, including a large-scale illumination and a Victorian market on Broad Street and In Gloucester Green. TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) and Oxford Preservation Trust will be celebrating the 950th anniversary of Oxford Castle with a full-scale son et lumière projection. Oxford Contemporary Music and Arts at the Old Fire Station have jointly commissioned a dance and sound performance from Thomas Page Dances. Creating on Borrowed Time will be a four part immersive work, spread across the city, exploring the relationship between dance, light, time and sound.

There will be four main festival neighbourhood hubs at Rose Hill, Cowley, Blackbird Leys, and Cutteslowe.

These local creative hubs will highlight partnerships between Oxford’s leading cultural organisations, community groups and residents. Together they will share ideas and responses about our connections with each other, with our environment and with the season. Many buildings, parks, streets and houses will be illuminated with light creations accompanied by sound, movement and interactive play.


“We’re very excited to be working on Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival, one of the city’s key, annual cultural events. The ideas that Oxford residents and creative organisations are working on together for the festival weekend will light up the skies, as public spaces and neighbourhood streets become the canvas for a weekend of illuminations. Having the festival take place in the city’s residential areas allows so many more people to be able to actively take part or simply stroll around their neighbourhood to see sculptures, light trails and displays. There’s lots to look forward to and lots of ways to get involved. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone out on their streets enjoying the spectacle.”

Festival Directors, Karen Starr and Lois Muddiman

“Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is an important moment in the city’s calendar. This is an opportunity to come together and celebrate the creativity of our local communities. By making the festival in the residential areas of the city, everyone can get involved and enjoy a weekend of connection through arts and culture. Events, like the Christmas Light Festival, bring people together and cement strong relationships between neighbours and communities. Let’s make it a time to create, celebrate and enjoy our city.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism

The full programme of events, workshops and trails will be published on the festival website from the end of October.


Programme highlights

Rose Hill

Rose Hill Community Centre is currently hosting Film Oxford and Junior Youth Group with their drop-in workshops in sound, animation, games making and light design. These will lead to a showcase event on Saturday 20th at Rose Hill Community Centre when anyone can have a go. In the evening a ‘sound and vision’ procession will wind its way around Rose Hill and down to the local allotments.

Blackbird Leys

IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival will host a series of Glow Your Own live and online ‘arts and coding’ workshops in the run up to the festival. With members of the neighbourhood communities, they will plan and make a light sculpture for the Blackbird Leys CDI building. The sculpture will be in place over the festival weekend and is inspired by the concept of a 3D ‘curtain’ of light that responds to sunlight, torchlight and sound.


A trail of illuminated windows will be on show in Cutteslowe, thanks to creative packs supplied to local residents, by the North Wall Arts Centre and lantern making workshops at the Cutteslowe Garden Centre, Cutteslowe Community Centre and Cutteslowe Primary School. Some of the lanterns will appear in a procession through the park and at the pavilion on 19th and 20th November. Low Carbon West Oxford are also hosting a light trail, Window Wanderland, in their neighbourhood during the festival.


Join the celebration at Ark-T Centre, Cowley, on Friday 19 November, when their Light Garden will be showcasing lanterns, illuminated sculptures and wearable art made by young people from their Creativity Changes Lives programme. Visitors can bring their own lights, share food, join the Creativity Camps procession around Ark-T and dance at the silent disco.

Make a lantern

Florence Park in Cowley will be the site for a light celebration including a laser show from FloFest. Fusion Arts, in partnership with sponsor Oxford Business Park, will deliver community-focused art workshops for schools and community groups where participants will build small and large-scale willow and tissue lanterns that make use of sustainable materials.  These workshops are designed to help people safely reconnect with their communities following lockdown restrictions being lifted. Any school, group or individual who is interested in hosting a lantern-making workshop, should contact Fusion Arts on info@fusion-arts.org.

Members of the public can view an online lantern making tutorial and, by purchasing a lantern making kit with complete instructions, can make their own. Lantern kits cost £7 and anyone able to pay for an extra kit will help someone who otherwise couldn’t afford one, to take part as well. Kits can be ordered from the fusion website on fusionarts.bigcartel.com. Any lanterns made can be displayed at home or used for the lantern parade during the Florence Park Community event.

IF-Oxford Science and Ideas Festival are also offering weekly online tutorials in making programmable LED lights ready for a paper lantern or window display in the home. Details of the sessions and how to take part are available online.