Oxford's Christmas Light Festival 2021 a resounding success

Published: Tuesday, 14th December 2021

Thousands of Oxonians enjoyed events and illuminations all over Oxford over the weekend of 19 and 20 November, to mark the start of the festive season in Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival.

In previous years, events were presented entirely in the city centre, this year’s festival shifted the focus into communities where people worked with artists on their own celebrations of light.

More than 50 organisations and artists supported workshops, activities and displays with many schools and community groups taking part. Well over 2,000 participants were involved in activities and an estimated audience of over 8,000 saw more than 28 events all over the city. As well as the fantastic support in communities, city centre businesses benefitted from a high level of footfall over the weekend.

In a weekend of co-created events, Oxford’s artists, creative organisations, local people, schools and community groups were involved in making beautiful illuminations and displays in creative hubs around the city. Throughout the autumn, numerous workshops and creative sessions were held online, in community spaces and schools in preparation for the weekend. The result was a host of activities that turned neighbourhoods into astonishing, enchanted places: the Glow Your Own interactive installation in Blackbird Leys the Cutteslowe Light Trail; Rose Hill’s Creative Lights; the Finding the Light and Creating on Borrowed Time experiences in Florence Park; the Light Garden at Ark-T; the Oxford Castle son et lumiere; Victorian Christmas Markets and light trails and window displays around the city. All were linked together by an illuminated Festival Bus touring the hubs and bringing more festive cheer to the streets. 

Funded by a range of partners including Oxford City Council, Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is brought to you by a group of cultural organisations who, year-round, work in and with communities around the city. These include Ark-T, Arts at the Old Fire Station, Cutteslowe Garden Project, Film Oxford, FloFest/GloFest, Fusion Arts, IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival, LSD Promotions, Museum of Oxford, The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford Castle & Prison, OCM (Oxford Contemporary Music), Oxford City Council, Oxford Preservation Trust, Science Oxford, and TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities). They have been shaping the festival for many months, working together to make unique experiences for the city’s residents to join in. These collaborations have been forged by the hundreds of people making this year’s remarkable moment of celebration.

“It is wonderful to see what can happen when cultural partners and communities are at the heart of organising a major city-wide event. Setting Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival in local neighbourhoods and seeing the number of people who took part from those communities around the city is precisely what the festival is about. The sheer quality of the weekend, and the engagement it had, shows how vital cultural events are to community cohesion, health and growth.”

Paula Redway, Oxford City Council Culture and Community Development Manager

Sponsorship is a critical factor in creating the festival. Festival sponsor Oxford Business Park extended their support to help fund the Finding the Light event in Florence Park that included lantern displays, light sculptures and a laser light show. Oxford Bus Company and JACKfm collaborated on the illuminated Festival Bus that linked events together as it toured around the city and visited community hubs where festival activities were taking place.

It is clear from the public responses that the weekend’s entertainment was a big success:

“Such a lovely event. Thank you so much for doing this and bringing some light into the community”

“Catered for real life people from every background coming together to enjoy the start of Christmas – magical!”

“This is brilliant, thank you so much! Please repeat!!!!”

“The Oxford Christmas Light Festival has once again proved to be a resounding success. Its purpose is to bring communities together, share creativity and celebrate the city. There’s no doubt that those aims were met in abundance. Let’s build on this winning formula for future years and look forward to Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival 2022.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism