Christmas Light Festival attracts almost 100,000 people to Oxford

Published: Monday, 28th November 2016

Almost 100,000 people visited Oxford to enjoy and take part in this year’s Christmas Light Festival.

The festival took place between Friday (25/11) and Sunday (27/11) and saw events and art installations take place across the city.

An estimated 38,000 people turned out to watch about 200 children take part in a lantern procession, which told the story of Empress Matilda’s daring escape from Oxford Castle and King Stephen’s armies, through the city centre on Friday evening.

Cultural venues across Oxford, including the city’s museums and galleries, hosted events across the weekend.

Highlights included:

  • Playing with a huge musical instrument, called ‘Illumaphonium’, on Broad Street to create a unique light and sound show
  • Seeing a vast miniature riot scene within a 40ft shipping container with artist Jimmy Cauty’s ‘ADP Riot Tour
  • Hugging one of the massive sonic spheres in ‘Colony’ at Oxford Castle Quarter and Gloucester Green
  • Meeting Xalia and Atom, the illuminated 10ft giants as they walked through the city’s streets
  • Seeing community choirs on the streets and in venues across the city

A further 60,000 people visited the Christmas Market in Broad Street and took part in other activities across the city on Saturday and Sunday. In total, it is estimated that 98,000 people attend Christmas Light Festival activities across the weekend.

Last year’s Christmas Light Festival attached about 67,555 people and generated an estimated £369,336 for Oxford’s economy over the weekend.

The Christmas Light Festival was organised by Oxford City Council and Ian Nolan Events in partnership with Oxford’s cultural organisations, on behalf of communities across the city.

The festival’s lead sponsor was Westgate Oxford Alliance. The lead funder was Oxford City Council, with additional funding from the Arts Council and the University of Oxford. The Christmas tree in Broad Street was sponsored by The Tree Barn, Watlington and Jewsons.

Jack FM was this year’s media partner and presenter Trev, from the Morning Glory show, compered and entertained the crowds during the Friday evening festivities in Broad Street.

On top of this, the festival received a huge amount of support in-kind from cultural partners, which programmed and delivered activities and events as part of the weekend.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “This year's Christmas Light Festival was a fabulous mix of activities and offered something for every interest. The Lantern Parade was magnificent and the children and helpers involved deserve warm congratulations for the impressive lanterns.

“I would like to thank the Westgate Centre and the University of Oxford for their invaluable support and all the dancers, choirs and performers who made it such a memorable weekend.”

Rachel Capell, City Events Officer at Oxford City Council, said: “The festival as a whole is the result of many different partners working together successfully and simply going above and beyond to deliver so many free activities and events for the communities of Oxford.

“This year in particular the partnership work has been amazing and has resulted in some great additions to the festival like the ADP Riot Tour piece from OVADA (Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency) and Colony from OCM (Oxford Contemporary Museum).”

Ian Nolan, director of Ian Nolan events, said: "Oxford is the perfect city to celebrate Christmas; there is nothing that compares to seeing the lantern parade winding its way around the Radcliffe Camera and watching the joy on the children's faces. 

“My team have been working on the planning for many months and we are all delighted at the positive response the event has received.”

Oxford City Council would love to hear feedback from those who attended this year’s Christmas Light Festival.