Oxford prepares for May Morning celebrations

Published: Wednesday, 26th April 2023

Bank holiday Monday will see thousands gathering in Oxford to celebrate May Morning 2023.

The event is a unique Oxford tradition that stretches back over 500 years. It will see crowds along High Street and Magdalen Bridge for the 6am choral welcome for the coming of spring. Choristers from Magdalen College Choir will sing traditional pieces including the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of Magdalen College’s Great Tower.

Hymnus Eucharisticus was composed in the 17th century by a Fellow of Magdalen College and has been sung every year on May Morning ever since. The bells of the Great Tower’s then ring out over the city for approximately 20 minutes.

Many people continue to celebrate across the town centre with dance and music, including Morris Dancing and folk singing, and cafes and pubs will open from 6.30am for hungry customers.

A crowd management system will provide one-way channels on Magdalen Bridge to enable the crowd to flow during and immediately after the event. People will not be allowed to stop in the channels, and stewards and signs will be in place to direct people to areas where they can stop and view the event. Those wishing to move through or leave the event space will need to keep left.

Designated viewing areas for wheelchair users, families with young children and those with buggies will also be available again – in the car park of Magdalen College School and in Rose Lane. If capacity is reached on Magdalen Bridge, stewards and barriers will be used to stop any more people from accessing the bridge from the west and east. Bicycles – including those ridden and pushed – will again not be allowed to cross Magdalen Bridge immediately before or during the event.

A road closure will be in place from The Plain to the top of the High Street from 02:00 till around 09:00 on Monday 1 May. Diversions and alternative cycling routes will be signposted.

Details of road closures and crowd management provisions are online www.oxford.gov.uk/maymorning

“May Morning is a joyful celebration and absolutely unique to Oxford. This is not an organised event, it’s simply a coming together of people of all ages and backgrounds, families, students and visitors to mark a tradition, and that makes it a very special event for everyone to enjoy.”

“The crowd management system has worked very well, and we are asking people once again to follow the instructions from stewards, keep to the pedestrian channels, and use the buggy and wheelchair areas if needed. If you are travelling through the city please be aware of the road closure and alternative routes.”

Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Culture

Oxford City Council coordinates the May Morning event at Magdalen Bridge on behalf of a multi-agency partnership, including Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, South Central Ambulance Service, Oxfordshire County Council and Magdalen College. Events held at other venues and locations across the city are organised by the individual venues or groups.