St Giles’ Fair is set to make a return to Oxford this September after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – it would have been impossible to ensure social distancing.
St Giles’ Fair 2021 will take place on Monday 06, and Tuesday 07 September, from 11.00am to 11.00pm on both days. The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Mark Lygo, will open the fair by ceremonially ringing a bell and being the first to take a ride.
The fair is one of the greatest and most prestigious in the country. The fair dates back to 1625 when it was a parish festival to celebrate the feast of the patron saint, St Giles, and is held on the Monday and Tuesday following the first Sunday after St Giles’ Day (01 September).
In the 18th century, it was a toy fair, then in the early 19th century, it was a general children’s fair.
The funfair grew during mid and late Victorian times when improved means of transport meant that large numbers of people could be brought into the city to attend the festivities. It was also when the forerunners of today’s rides were first developed following advances in mechanical engineering.
Now run by Oxford City Council, the St Giles’ fair is probably the largest of its kind in Europe, taking up all of St Giles’ even Magdalen Street by Elliston and Cavell’s right up to and beyond the War Memorial, at the meeting of the Woodstock and Banbury roads.
There will be road closures and diversions around the area from Sunday 05 to Wednesday 08 to allow the fair to take place.
Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism at Oxford City Council, said: “St Giles’ Fair has been a fixture in the Oxford calendar for centuries, and is one of the few events that really does have something for everyone. After missing out last year, it’s great to be able to look forward to some family fun.”