A YEAR of planning comes to fruition on Sunday in the annual explosion of exuberance that is Cowley Road Carnival.

Around 50,000 revellers are expected to descend on the East Oxford street for a day of music, colourful costumes and fabulous food.

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The highlight of the yearly extravaganza is undoubtedly the procession, which will this year see hundreds of performers, community groups and schoolchildren parade in outfits based around the theme ‘Space is the Place’.


Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, as well as Oxford’s contribution to science, the cosmic carnival procession will set off from The Plain at 12.30pm, dancing its way down the mile-long thoroughfare until it reaches St Mary and St John Church.

“We’ve got some really big structures this year like a giant telescope, planets and even a space jellyfish”, reveals the carnival’s creative producer Anya Fox, in charge of making sure ‘everyone is where they need to be’ on Sunday.

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“We’ve not had the funding in recent years for the larger structures so groups have focused more on individual costumes but funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council has allowed us to go bigger this year.

“I’ve tried to not look at them too much because I want to enjoy them on carnival day with the crowds.”

Among the interstellar line-up will be four special parade structures created by Oxford Physics researchers who teamed up with East Oxford community groups, including Oxfordshire Mind and Oxford Spires Academy.


Anya says to also look out for a rocket-inspired car made by a team of apprentices from the Cowley MINI plant, who wowed crowds last year with their ‘bullnose Mini’ which featured a giraffe and elephant poking out the sun roof, giant rotating bamboo wheels, and flashing lights for eyes.

Another big attraction on Sunday will be the Arcadia Bug fresh from its appearance at Glastonbury.

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The curious vehicle will drive along the street before the parade then set up in the carnival’s Union Street Disco zone where it will spread its wings and transform into a DJ stage.

“We’re trying to encourage people to come out a bit earlier this year so they don’t miss things like the Arcadia Bug in action and there isn’t a big rush to the procession,” says Anya.

After the parade Oxfordshire’s biggest street party begins in earnest, with the event split into zones, catering to all tastes and ages with music stages and venues for performers along the road and side streets.


There is a packed programme of music and performance, highlights include funky ska jazz brass from Papa Nai, the Bollywood Brass Band and Oxford’s Cuban style big band Ran Kan Kan headlining the Carnival Music Stage.

For a more melodic acoustic vibe head to the Restore Garden off Manzil Way were popular local band Deadbeat Apostles, Henry Grace, the Scott Gordon Band, Matt Russ, and contemporary folk duo Wednesday’s Wolves are all playing.

PROFILE: Read our interview with Cowley Road Carnival head Micaela Tuckwell

Cuisine from around the world will also be available, with Manzil Way hosting street food stalls, as well as Cowley Road’s collection of independent restaurants feeding the hungry crowds along the main street.

Micaela Tuckwell, executive director of Cowley Road Works, which organises the annual free event, said: “Whether you are from Venus, Mars or on another planet...you will find plenty to see and do. Have a terrific day and may the Force be with you!”

Don't forget to donate on carnival day to make sure the free event, which costs £130,000 to run, sticks around.