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Magdalen College School: Arty Pursuits

Magdalen College School’s Arts Festival Oxford enhances community and city links! 20 June-5 July

"Poetry in Oxford, deep amongst the spires"

As one of the top five schools in the UK for academic results, you would be forgiven for thinking that exams would be the main focus at MCS.

But the five-century-old school has always maintained that a commitment to a remarkably broad range of extra-curricular pursuits is the secret to its enduring success.

This is never more in evidence than in the summer term, which closes with the annual MCS Arts Festival Oxford, showcasing the school’s commitment to the arts. A colourful mix of music, drama, art, literature, talks, workshops and entertainment is on offer to the whole community and at various prestigious locations throughout the city.


People of all ages in Oxford will benefit from an unprecedented breadth of offerings at this year’s Festival and none more so than the school’s boys and girls, who will be involved in an array of arty pursuits that will facilitate their learning, build on their studies and provide plenty of fun in the process.

This year MCS dramatists will put on four plays, including Alice in Wonderland at the Oxford Playhouse. Musicians will get the opportunity to play at the Festival Proms at The Sheldonian Theatre, artists can exhibit at the Summer Art Exhibition, writers have a poetry competition and poetry slam to look forward to, and MCS choristers will perform Handel’s Messiah.

Pupils will also benefit from the school’s close ties with Oxford and its major cultural organisations, which have opened doors this year to the use of not only the Oxford Playhouse and The Sheldonian Theatre, but also the Ashmolean Museum, Christ Church Picture Gallery, the Oxford Union, the Oxford Castle Quarter and Holywell Music Room.

They will also get to meet and hear from some high profile speakers, including poet Roger McGough, historian and broadcaster Michael Wood, economist and former Observer editor-in-chief Will Hutton, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, journalist Matthew Syed and art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon.

The Festival will also welcome former MCS pupil Tom Piper MBE, designer of the 2014 poppy installation at the Tower of London.

The main buzz around this year’s Festival is its funding from Arts Council England – in addition to backing from the city and county councils and the University of Oxford – recognising the school’s pioneering outreach initiatives, which this year has seen children from over 35 local schools benefit from participation in the Festival’s projects.

Hundreds of young people have been involved in workshops over several months leading up to the Festival, helping to strengthen and expand the school’s links with local communities, to extend its richness of resources across Oxfordshire and to enhance the cultural life of the city as a whole – a sentiment captured perfectly in poet Roger McGough’s special ode to the Festival:

Poetry in Oxford, deep amongst the spires

Seen it on the posters and the festival e-fliers

What a way to spend it, a duskfilled Tuesday night

See you there, I’m hoping, for some poetry-fuelled delight.

- Roger McGough

MCS Arts Festival Oxford takes place 20 June-5 July


Related Articles: The Rich History of Magdalen College School