One of the best known faces on the Oxford music scene, big-hearted rock guitarist, DJ, gig promoter and party animal Mark ‘Osprey’ O’Brien is a man on a mission – to big-up the best of Oxford’s new music.

“There are more great bands in some individual Oxford streets than there are in the whole of most towns this size,” laughs the loveable ‘Smoggy’ – a native of Teesside.

“All I want to do is make more people aware of them. Everybody knows the big names who have come out of this city, but there are new bands and artists appearing every week. We should be shouting about that.”

It’s that love of new music which has inspired Osprey to organise one of the musical highlights of the year – the Oxford City Festival. The event, which got underway last week, sees scores of bands and artists playing at The Bullingdon, Half Moon, Wheatsheaf, The Port Mahon and elsewhere.

“It is knackering mate, but it’s worthwhile,” he laughs. “And this year’s is the biggest yet!”

This is the seventh time Osprey – who takes his unusual nickname from the CB radio handle he used while working on a fish farm in the Lake District – has spent the autumn putting on a hometown music festival to showcase the best of the city’s homegrown music scene.

Designed to incubate and nurture new talent and remind gig-goers of the bands, artists and DJs already out there, it became an instant hit in its first year – not least with the acts booked to play.

“There are lots of other festivals but none of them focus exclusively on local talent,” says the musician, who performs as a guitarist in his own band and also has a raucous history as an acid house and rave DJ.

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“I also like the idea of spreading it over two weeks instead of just squeezing everything into one day like some events. And because it is spread across the whole city – from Cowley Road, through St Clement’s to the city centre and out to Jericho – it is a truly Oxford-wide festival.”

With the demise of Ronan Munro’s much-missed, multi-venue Oxford Punt new music event, Osprey’s festival is all the more important.


He adds: “Lots of towns are losing their music scenes and I think it’s important to celebrate what we have – both in the city and shire. And it’s good to do that in one block at the end of the year.

“We have more great music this year than you can shake a stick at... so come along and support it.”

OXFORD CITY FESTIVAL What to see... and where:

Saturday: Chalk / Itinerants / Number38 / GetLoose / Bone Machine / Summit7 / Lost Darren / The Factory Lights & more tbc at The Port Mahon all-dayer from 2pm.

Live electronica feat: Octavia Freud / Means Of Production / Mojave / Art Lagun at The Wheatsheaf.

Franklins Tower (a tribute to the Grateful Dead) Country For Old Men at The Half Moon.

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Sunday: The Sunday Social feat: Tony & Sal Batey / Mojo Demon / Cat Shakers /Delta Hardware / Artisan Blues Trio & more at The Half Moon.

Monday: Flintlock Rifles / Earinade / Waterfools / Sprung From Cages at The Bullingdon.

Decovo / Gsquared / Trevor Williams & more at The Wheatsheaf.

Wednesday: Singer-songwriters evening feat: Mark Cope / Caola McMahon / J Lewis / Daniel Ma’ani / Ben Casey at The Wheatsheaf.

Thursday: Charms Against The Evil Eye / Shaven Primates / Laima Bite at The Port Mahon.

Friday: Beard Of Destiny / Otto / The Autumn Saints / at The Port Mahon.

The Oxford Blues Corporation downstairs at The Port Mahon.

The Gee’s & special guests at The Half Moon.

The Jerichos / The Relationships / & more at The Wheatsheaf.


Next Saturday: Gappy Tooth Industries feat: Master Of None / Spill The River & more at The Wheatsheaf.

Let the DJs take control feat: Destination DJs / Mackating DJs / Natty Mark / Invisible Man / Lewis Bateman / Chris Hall / DJ Naz – house, funk, reggae and more. 1pm start at The Port Mahon.

Closing party with Osprey & Co plus special guests at The Half Moon.

More dates to be confirmed.