Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival 2023 is a 3-day celebration of Arts, Culture and Community.
The festival has been taking place since 2009. It’s evolved over the years from a single evening’s event in the city centre to a full three day weekend that includes light and sound installations, a festive market, music, dance and lots of free activities in venues across the city, and more recently to light trails and events in residential areas of the city.
As a light festival, the programme includes impressive light installations and displays, and we work with scores of cultural partners to present a host of performances, exhibitions, workshops and activities, many of which are free and ideal for all the family to enjoy.
Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival has pivoted its approach quite dramatically, moving from an outdoor mass gathering event based in the city centre to a model that responded to COVID-19 restrictions and yet enabled more residential engagement than ever before.
Seeing the benefits of this localised approach and the sheer joy of communities making the festival programme content themselves, the festival is hoping to develop this approach even further in 2022 – with lots of ways for local communities to get involved and lots happening to lift community spirits.
Hotspots of activity in 2019 included Broad Street’s Christmas market, Gloucester Green’s live dance stage, magical installations in the Castle Quarter and Westgate Oxford into the mix as the lantern parade weaved through new spaces as well as historic ones.
This year the programme expands further into the city’s neighbourhoods and celebrates the Art of Connectivity. In addition to events in central Oxford, 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.
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 have planned a light sculpture for the Blackbird Leys CDI building. The interactive sculpture will be in place over the festival weekend and responds to sunlight, torchlight and sound.
Ark-T extends a warm invitation to their Winter Lights party on Friday, 18 November, from 5.00pm, where you can experience a magical audio-visual installation, enjoy music from local musicians and DJs, take part in creative workshops, get your face painted and eat delicious seasonal food.
FloFest’s Finding the Light event was so popular last year it extends to two evenings on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 November from 4.30pm with lanterns, lights and lasers plus live music, fair rides and a secret light trail.
At Rose Hill Community Centre on Saturday, 19 November, anyone young or old can join in a polar light parade, workshops, local films and live music with Rose Hill Junior Youth Club and Film Oxford in the afternoon from 4.45pm.
Magdalen Road Studios and Pegasus have teamed up to host the Magdalen Road Festival of workshops, art installations, light trails and performances. There’s even an after-party with music and a pop-up café
The North Wall has partnered with the Cutteslowe Community Centre to deliver lantern and window display-making workshops with local art clubs and Cutteslowe Primary School for the Cutteslowe Light Trail. Grab a map on Saturday, 19 November, from 5.00pm to view the beautifully lit windows in houses across Sunnymead and Cutteslowe, illuminated trees, a light sensory disco, shadow light theatre and crafts.
Visitors to Botley Park will see illuminated trees and a hidden light trail on Sunday, 20 November, courtesy of the West Oxford Pantomime Association. A lantern procession from 5.00pm will be led by local musicians, followed by decorated cycles and sleighs pulled by ‘reindeer’ and ‘huskies’. The best sleigh wins a prize.
Modern Art Oxford welcomes the return of the Shadowlight Artists supported by Film Oxford. The latest exhibition, Captured Moments, features new work by artists Lucy Skuce and Mark Hemsworth.
Oxford City Council has teamed up with the High Streets Association, Independent Oxford, Daily Info and High Street Safari to run an innovative augmented reality trail for families starting on 18 November. Anyone with a smartphone can use it to Hunt for the Lost Toys on a route through ten stops, including shops and attractions around the city. Families will be guided by a team of superheroes as they make story choices for their Christmas adventure and see cheeky elves burst to life on their screens.
The Victorian Christmas market on Broad Street will warm and cheer visitors with their seasonal food, gifts and refreshments. As well as the Broad Street location, a visit to the Museum of Oxford will shine a light on the gifted creators of the city who make high-quality affordable presents for any Christmas list.
City centre churches, Wesley Memorial, and St Ebbe’s will be holding festive services, and iconic Christmas trees will be on display in Broad Street and at the Oxford Castle & Prison, where there will also be a seasonal trail.
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. Expect yuletide stalls fully stocked and decked out in traditional style, and all traders wearing Victorian dress.
Switch on your Christmas lights at 5.30pm on Saturday, 19 November. Lots of streets will be making illuminated creations to display in their windows, on their doorsteps or balconies, and some will be organising a little doorstep celebration starting at 5.30pm on Saturday, 19 November.
Light up your street with homemade lanterns and window displays. Get creative and make a festive display for your home. Download the ‘how-to’ instructions for lanterns of all kinds to decorate your door, window, garden or balcony ready for the festival weekend. Follow the video guides to make a colourful window display ready for the festival weekend.
Whether it’s how to make a lantern or how to programme some LED lights to wear, there’s plenty of ideas and inspiration to join in a collective bid to bring and share a little light in our lives. You’ll find resources and online workshops you can watch or ‘how-to’ information sheets on the festival website.
In 2020, Oxford Bus Company teamed up with Oxford Business Park to bring a little bit of sparkle to the streets of Oxford during the Christmas Light festival! Local artist Mani and City of Oxford College students created specially designed artworks for the windows of their open-top bus. This year, the Christmas Light Festival bus will be out and about on Saturday 19 November.
There will be festive prizes for the 3 best photographs that the organisers receive – but hurry now as they must be received by midday on Sunday, 20 November. The theme for this year will be announced later. Photos will be judged on how they show the atmosphere and creativity of Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival.
The lantern parade opening the festival on Friday evening, taking a route around the city centre.
A vibrant selection of light installations appears around the city over the Festival weekend
The festival brings together an eclectic mix of street and stage performances over the weekend