A GROUP of community artists has been awarded £8,000 to work with a school in preparation for Cowley Road Carnival.

TOCTOK has been holding sessions with the “7 Stars” support unit at Cherwell School, which helps some of the Year 7 pupils with behavioural and learning difficulties, after it received funding from the Big Lottery.

Artist Su Frizell, known as Groovy Su, said the 12 pupils were taking on the theme of Empress Matilda and were making a giant puppet of her.

They will be part of the Cowley Road Carnival on Sunday in East Oxford.

A number of community groups have been creating displays for the procession, which this year has the theme of Oxford Faces.

Empress Matilda had a claim to the English throne during the medieval civil war, known as The Anarchy, between 1135 and 1154.

Her father, Henry I, nominated her to succeed him, following the death of his son and Matilda’s younger brother, William Adelin.

She could have been the first Queen of England, but her nomination for the throne was not popular and instead her cousin Stephen of Blois was crowned king.

In an attempt to take the crown in 1139, she captured Stephen but had to exchange him for her half-brother Robert of Gloucester.

In the winter of 1141 she was trapped in Oxford Castle by Stephen’s army and had to make an escape, with three knights, by walking along the frozen River Isis and down the Thames to Wallingford. She dressed in white to disguise herself against the snow.

Su Frizell said: “The children have totally engaged with this complex and fascinating local history and loved researching medieval style to design their look.

“The children have been working with white, blue, silver and gold reclaimed waste and new materials and having opportunities to experiment and practise new skills.

“When children work creatively together they practice a lot of communication skills and learn that working as part of a team you can achieve so much.”


  • The carnival starts at noon on Sunday
  • A parade down Cowley Road starts at 2pm from the Plain roundabout, and will feature MINI Plant Oxford as an iconic face of Oxford
  • It will be joined by a main procession outside the East Oxford Community Centre at 2.15pm
  • The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band will headline the main stage in Manzil Gardens from 5pm.

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