Oxford Christmas Light Festival organisers adapt to meet COVID guidelines

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This weekend’s Oxford Christmas Light Festival will look different to previous years, as the event’s organizers trade in large street performances and crowded light displays for online and socially distant offerings compliant with federal lockdown regulations. The festival, which begins today and lasts through Sunday,

“This year’s Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival is an important opportunity for our local communities to share in a moment of uplifting creativity,” Councillor and Cabinet Minister for Culture Mary Clarkson wrote in a statement about this year’s event. “The wonderful ideas and activities being offered under the festival banner mean we can all enjoy the fun and spectacle in our homes and around our local areas.”

The weekend will consist of a mix of in-person, socially distanced outdoor activities and live streamed performances. Those wishing to see holiday light displays close-up will be invited to walk along a variety of ‘local light trails’ throughout the city. These routes go by the houses of residents who have gone all-out on illuminated decorations. Some participants received the help of a £50 microgrant to aid in the purchasing of supplies provided by event organizers. Residents will also be encouraged to gather with other members of their households for “Doorstep Celebrations” in place of the large-crowd gatherings that the festival usually brings.

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The Oxford Bus Company is partnering with local businesses and the City of Oxford College to decorate the top-floor of one of its open-air buses, which will be driving around the city throughout the weekend. Jack FM will provide live updates of the bus’s location to its listeners and offer a live stream of the procession online.

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Many performances that usually take place in central Oxford will also be livestreamed, to avoid potential COVID spread through overcrowding and comply with government guidelines put in place during lockdown. Luxmuralis – a fan-favorite event in which light murals are projected onto some of Oxford’s most famous buildings, including the Christ Church Cathedral and Radcliffe Camera – began at 4pm on Friday.

Other streamed events include performances from 28 different dance groups, an arts and crafts tutorial based on lanterns in the Ashmolean’s collection, and a musical concert from local up-and-coming artists.

Many of the weekend’s festivities will honor those on the frontlines of the pandemic, including NHS and other essential workers. According to the press release issued by the Oxford City Council, the tone of the weekend will be “based on thoughts that have very much been with us over the past months.” These include, “The light that moves us forward; Build back better; Green recovery; My community; Real life heroes [and] Being thankful.”

Image Credit: Peter Trimming / Broad Street, Oxford / CC BY-SA 2.0.

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