Expect a potent blend of Middle Eastern and western styles on Saturday when one of Oxford’s best-loved and most innovative bands takes to the stage (or rather, altar) at St Giles Church, Oxford, for the latest instalment of its superlative Jazz at St Giles shows.

Brickwork Lizards are an impossible band to pin down and pays no heed to musical nor geographical boundaries. Their music ranges from Arabic melodies to bluesy jazz, rock, roots and hip-hop: a style they refer to as ‘Turkobilly’.

The barnstorming troubadours came together as the result of a chance encounter between Egyptian vocalist and oud-player Tarik Beshir and Oxford rap scene stalwart Tom O’Hawk. Discovering a mutual love of the 1930s harmony group The Ink Spots, they dreamed up an entirely new sound that would combine pre-war jazz with Arabic and Middle Eastern music, paying tribute along the way to countless other styles.

They have been a staple of Jazz at St Giles for as long as the festival has existed, and serve as a musical high point, as evidenced by the sight of the audience – joined by vicar the Revd Canon Dr Andrew Bunch – dancing in the aisles.

The festival raises money for a variety of good causes including War Child, Save the Children, the ex-serviceman and woman’s charity Combat Stress, and St Giles’s own upkeep and music academy.

It is organised by former professional singer and St Giles supporter Jean Darke, who says: “It’s difficult to single out any one concert in our glittering line up, but we love Brickwork Lizards and they are returning by popular demand.

“With their Turkish-Arabian-jazz-rap mixture of foot-tapping music, they are a real star turn and are asked to perform again and again at the festival.”

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For Jean and Dr Bunch, the Jazz at St Giles series is not just a way of staging great music in a stunning setting but about bringing people together.


“Our enlightened vicar feels that pivotal points provided by buildings such as this beautiful church should welcome people to enjoy not just music making, religious, or liturgical, but other activities which bring people together to enjoy each other’s company,” says Jean.

“After all, in medieval times, churches hosted dancing, music-making of all kinds and even travelling theatrical groups. And as if the music itself isn’t heartwarming enough, then the fact that you’re supporting such worthy causes will give you a warm glow.”

The final show of the festival sees Tommaso Starace and pianist Michele Di Toro reunite on December 14.

* Tickets are £18. jazzatgiles.com