Bicester’s creative flame burns brightly as annual arts festival returns

Last weekend (Friday 18 to Sunday 20 September), the curtain was raised on the third annual Bicester Festival, with the theme ‘fire, keeping the flame alive’.

Published: Friday, 25th September 2020

Organised by community volunteers and supported by Cherwell District Council, Bicester Town Council, OYAP Trust and The Mill Art Centre, the three-day arts celebration took place entirely online, showcasing a mix of live-streamed and pre-recorded content.

The eclectic mix of music, performance, arts and crafts proved a huge success, attracting an average audience reach of 2,700 people on Facebook over each of the three days. Viewers tuned in from as far away Idaho, America, to watch the event.

Emma Doupé, from Evolve Vocal Studio, volunteers with the Bicester Festival Organising Committee and was responsible for programming this year’s event. Emma says: “There was a point in March where we had no idea whether a festival of any kind could go ahead. But it soon became clear that the arts were playing a hugely important role in people’s lives during lockdown, giving them something they could embrace and an outlet for them to express themselves during a very difficult time.

“The theme, keeping the flame alive, suddenly took on new meaning and the idea of an online celebration was created, culminating in last weekend’s Bicester Festival 2020! I am extremely proud of what the team has managed to achieve and look forward to bringing the live event back to the town centre next year!”

Cllr Andrew McHugh, Cherwell’s lead member for health and wellbeing said: “COVID-19 has been a very difficult time for everybody, but the team behind the Bicester Festival has shown what is possible by adapting to the conditions and having a determination to succeed.

“The virtual event certainly struck a chord with Bicester, giving artists a new platform to display their talents, whilst providing residents with some much-needed entertainment. I offer my congratulations to everybody involved in delivering such a first class show.”

Throughout the weekend, live performances were streamed from professional recording spaces at TAD Studios in Chesterton and Distinct Solutions’ Live Barn in Bucknell. As well as singers and musicians, the Bicester Festival showcased live yoga, dance classes for youngsters and a community flash dance.

All the material is still on the Bicester Festival Facebook page and will be merged across to the new webpage to be showcased throughout the year. This will also become the online home of arts in Bicester, enabling creatives to stay connected and support each other as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact on the sector.