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OX HC Magazine
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Oxford Culture

Oxford is a city with a world class reputation for culture. The culture offer is broad and deep


Great art can inspire ambition, reflect and challenge our identities and ideals, and help us to understand and imagine totally different worlds

It’s my job, working with cultural organisations from across the city, to make sure that everyone in Oxford has the chance to experience this culture, irrespective of their postcode or financial circumstances.

In my role as Oxford’s Cultural Development Manager, I lead the City Council’s Culture team. We run the Museum of Oxford, deliver major events such as the Dancin’ Oxford and Christmas Light Festivals, and fund arts and cultural organisations and projects.

I work with arts organisations, museums and key business and university partners in the city to maximise the opportunities for Oxford residents to enjoy and create excellent, affordable cultural experiences.

On a personal note, I’m inspired by the radical, transformative potential of the arts. That’s why I’ve always wanted to work in this sector. Great art can inspire ambition, reflect and challenge our identities and ideals, and help us to understand and imagine totally different worlds.

The City Council invests almost £400,000 each year in the city’s cultural activities. This investment helps bring in an additional £6.6million to the city’s economy, and the organisations and activities we support engage audiences of more than 700,000 people every year.

The cultural sector nationally is a huge driver for the economy and the story in Oxford is no different; every £1 of City Council investment in cultural organisations in 2013/14 led to more than £22 of extra funding and benefit.

However, our funding isn’t only about large commissions; for instance we also work with Ian Nolan Events to run CREATE, a crowd-funding event where arts projects pitch for audience donations. With the City Council doubling all donations made on the night and host venues providing free drinks, this has quickly become one of Oxford’s most popular cultural events.

Another regular feature on the city’s cultural calendar is the Dancin’ Oxford festival. Funded by Arts Council England, this includes a spring festival, a summer outdoor programme and autumn Family Dance Week.

Baby Boogie, a fun and informal disco dance event for under-5’s and their families is one of our most popular year-round events. We’ve also been working with English National Ballet to develop Dance for Parkinson’s classes for Parkinson’s sufferers and their carers.

The Museum of Oxford celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2015 and we’ve received £46k funding from Arts Council England for a year of celebratory arts and heritage events.

Highlights include the ’40 Years in 40 Objects’ exhibition of community objects and memories; do get in touch if you’d like to share an object or story that represents Oxford to you. We’ll also be hosting live dance, music and visual arts events in our ‘Old Museum’ venue in the Town Hall and our writer in residence will be creating new poems inspired by the city and its people.

The Museum’s anniversary marks the start of a major capital development, in response to rapidly increasing visitor numbers and interest. The Museum will be extended within the Town Hall to include new temporary and permanent galleries and exhibits, digital installations and a wider community outreach offer. We’re aiming to open the new museum by 2018 and will be consulting with audiences, businesses and other cultural organisations to make sure the new galleries represent the city of Oxford and its people in interesting and exciting news ways.

The next major event – phew! - for the team is the Christmas Light Festival, which this year takes place from 21-23 November.

A weekend festival of free cultural events across more than 20 venues in Oxford, the event was enjoyed by more than 100,000 people in 2013. This year, for the first time, there will be no lantern parade, as the celebrations move indoors.

Free arts and heritage events and participatory activities are taking place at Pegasus, the Ashmolean, the Museum of Oxford and OVADA, among many others. Thanks to lead sponsor Westgate Shopping Centre Oxford and support from Oxford University Community Fund, there will be a Light Installation exhibition featuring work by primary school students, a Day of Song featuring choral performances across the city, and a festival hub in Gloucester Green.

We’re looking forward to launching Oxford’s Christmas cultural season in style and hope to see you at the festival.

Find out more: Oxford City Council Culture, CREATE Oxford, Museum of Oxford, Oxford Christmas Light Festival.

- Ceri Gorton