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Cowley Road Carnival

The Cowley Road Carnival, 5 July, 12 noon – 5pm

This year’s Cowley Road Carnival on 5 July promises to be more fun than ever, with its unique, joyful celebration of the diverse community of East Oxford
Cowley Road Carnival

‘Creating our Future’

For one day of the year, on the first Sunday in July, the traffic stops and is replaced with the global rhythms and colour created by the people living and working on and around the Cowley Road, the most vibrant part of Oxford.

From The Plain, all the way along the Cowley Road to Magdalen Road, and with Manzil Way, Chapel Street and Dawson Street and other areas and venues joining the festivities, there is so much to see and do and something to appeal to everyone and any age.

Cowley Road Carnival


The street is closed to traffic and road diversions are in place from early in the morning. At noon the road will burst into life with hundreds of performers exploding into song and dance.

The theme this year is ‘Creating our Future’ in celebration of Oxford Brookes University’s 150 year anniversary.

The groups in the procession, many of them school children, have been working on their costumes and giant-sized structures for months. Dance and music groups will also join the procession, including local favourites Sol Samba and Horns of Plenty, and the new Rhythm Craft group who have been making their drums from recycled materials. Community groups such as the Nepalese and West Papua will be part of it too.

The fossil fuel free procession (on foot or pedal powered) will start at 1.30pm from The Plain end of Cowley Road, finishing at around 2.30-2.45pm at St Mary & St John churchyard near the junction with Magdalen Road. You can expect to see around 700 people in over 30 groups, all dressed up in their colourful and imaginative costumes.

If you need to get away from the bustle of the streets, the charity MIND is organising a quiet retreat for some calm at The Mill at 46 Cowley Road. There will also be the Family and Discovery Zones offering an alternative vibe and activity.

Food is a huge attraction and, with dishes from countries all round the world on offer, you are sure to be able to try something delectable and new. The Cowley Road is already famous for food, with restaurants specialising in Indian, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Nepalese cuisine, and more. On Carnival Day, most of them, like the award-winning Aziz, will present their specialities on food stalls outside their premises and join stall-holders there just for the day, such as the Oxford-based Indonesian Community Group. There will be plenty of Caribbean jerk chicken!

For the drinkers, there will be two Carnival bars, one on Manzil Gardens and the other in the Hobgoblin Car Park behind Tesco, between Union and Chapel Streets.

In the Hobgoblin Car Park there will be a performance stage, introduced successfully for the first time last year. Anyone who has seen the film from 2014 on social media can see the area ‘jumping’ to DJ sets throughout the afternoon. This year promises an equally lively programme of DJs and local bands.

To chill out, take a trip to ‘Cowleyfornia’, in the Hobgoblin Car Park space, for a cool, laid back area with its own beach and skate ramp. There will also be fairground rides (aimed at teens and over rather than the little ones).

MINI Plant Oxford is bringing something special for you to see at the junction of East Avenue and the Cowley Road.

At the Manzil Gardens Stage there is plenty of room to spread out on the grass and enjoy an afternoon which kicks off at 12 noon with rising Oxford stars Balloon Ascents, followed by a programme of dance, and the ‘big finale’ from headline band Ran Kan Kan. Within the dance programme, you will also get the chance to see and perform the famous New Zealand ‘HaKa’ ritual dance, brought to us by Dancin’ Oxford.

The Caravan you will see parked up beside the Manzil Garden stage isn’t any ordinary caravan. It is the world’s weirdest wonder emporium packed with puppets, music and magic and set to present the ‘most magnifical, tremendible and fantasticulous experience’ as we join Dr Longitude and his crew of mysterious misfits who will entertain, amuse and beguile us in his quest to discover: ‘how many legs does a ‘Decapus’ have? Has anyone even seen a ‘Bumblewasp’? And what do you feed a ‘Whistling Pank’?

With over 45,000 people expected to attend the street festival, the organisers have created zones to help visitors find the events they want to participate in or see. Programmes with colour coded maps will be available on the website and from our volunteers on the day to make your day easier to plan. Suggested itineraries for carnival-goers will also be posted on the website.

For example, from the Manzil Gardens stage follow Manzil Way to the Body and Soul Garden for some Lotus Healing or learn about Falan Dafa. Follow the route on and you will find the Family Zone at the Asian Cultural Centre at the end of Manzil Way. There will be a quiet picnic area, family disco and baby boogie. There will also be baby changing facilities.

St Mary and St John church yard will host the Discovery Zone, with activities provided by the Oxford University Museums.

The afternoon will end at 5pm, and the road reopens to traffic by 7pm.

Carnival-goers are asked to donate a ‘Quid for Carnival’ for their afternoon’s entertainment. There is no other event like it. So dig deep into your pockets and give generously. It has to be the best value day’s entertainment you are going to get all year.

Find out more at cowleyroadcarnival.co.uk Follow on Facebook and Twitter 


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