2017-18 Projects

Hospital Radio podcast

Inspired by Paula Byrne and Jonathan Bate's poetry anthology Stressed Unstressed, children at the John Radcliffe Hospital School created their own book of poetry, Bright Sparks. In this, they and well-known authors share poems that inspire them. A series of podcasts, including interviews with the children and the authors, explore their choices and the ways in which poetry can help children (and adults) through difficult times. A selection of the podcasts and poems are being presented at an event at the Botanic Garden.

A journey through the wildlife of Oxford

Acclaimed wildlife photographer Andrew Walmsley led workshops in local schools, showing the students how to capture exciting wildlife photographs with coaching on composition, perspective, lighting and editing techniques. Examples of the students’ photographs of local Oxford wildlife are being exhibited over the summer months at Frideswide Square, alongside some of Andrew’s own work.

Magdalen Road Studios Residency

Alberta Venus-Sancisi, a student at a local school, has been selected to be Artist in Residence in a professional studio. The award includes mentoring from a professional artist, display of artwork in the studio gallery and presenting art to members of the public. She is giving a short talk at an Open Studio event during the festival, alongside other professional artists.

Poetry Live

London Laureate Laurie Bolger will meet and listen to the winning entrants of this year’s Poetry Live competition at the iconic University Church of St Mary the Virgin. The students have written poems on the theme of ‘Journeys’ and the many different forms these can take. Laurie will then give a reading of some of her own poems from her debut collection Box Rooms.


Each year we hold a debating championship for Oxfordshire schools, with the final rounds taking place at the historic Oxford Union. Each school is offered a coaching session, led by debating specialists, to help them prepare for the competition. This is followed by a public debate with leading speakers and writers debating a key topic in the current public spotlight.

Gifted and talented Writers

The Festival hosted a three-day Gifted and Talented writing course for children from 11 local primary schools, where author Peter Bunzl helped the pupils develop and broaden their literacy skills. A visit to the Botanic Garden was included to help inspire their creative flow.

Storytelling Journeys

Acclaimed author Sylvia Bishop and illustrator Ashley King held a series of workshops in local schools to coach the pupils in creating unique and personal stories and illustrations along the festival theme of 'Journeys'. This project culminates in a storytelling session at the Festival with Amantha Edmead, where the children will read their stories and listen to some of Amantha's wonderful tales.


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first women’s votes in England, Oxford residents of all ages have been creating colourful rosettes, which will be on display during the Festival. There is the opportunity for visitors to add to this display throughout the two week period, with templates available at the Festival Hub.

Cycling your way to freedom

Students and professional artists alike have been creating works of art based on cycle saddles, inspired by pieces such as Picasso's Bull's Head. These artworks will be displayed at Modern Art Oxford and there will be a cycle ride from MAO to the Festival Hub to celebrate the role cycles play as both vehicle and metaphor for freedom and social change, including the emancipation of women around the world.

Multilingualism concert

Renowned composer Lin Marsh has created a multilingual piece called We are Children of the World. With the main chorus in English, it also includes small sections with languages spoken in Oxford schools (Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Urdu, Swahili and Punjabi). Over 500 local children have rehearsed this piece and will perform it at the Sheldonian Theatre during the Festival, under the guidance of Lin Marsh and conductor Jon Cullen.

Cambridge Footlights workshop

The acclaimed Cambridge Footlights are holding a workshop for local students, to develop their understanding of character and comic narrative and build the tools needed to write their own comedy sketches. They will explain the writing process behind the international Footlights touring show.