A Colossal Carnival

2017 was the best one ever Cowley Road Carnval, attended by crowds estimated at over 50,000 people, with a more diverse range of performance and programming over more stages and venues than ever before.

Colossal Carnival photograph by Dave Fleming Oxford Mail

Colossal Carnival photograph by Dave Fleming Oxford Mail

The Big Weekend began with a launch event – Colossus Awakes – a massive pyrotechnic display in South Park. Colossus escaped the Park to be found the next day at the head of the procession.

Sol Samba photograph by Kourosh Khorshidfar

Sol Samba photograph by Kourosh Khorshidfarday\Kourosh Khorshidfar

Over 30 community groups and schools took part in the procession with the theme ‘Technology and Industry’.

Johannah Aynsley, Executive Director of Cowley Road Works said, “It was great, an incredible atmosphere changed since last year, more relaxed laid-back family friendly than last year. Audience flow around the site worked well, traders happy with the new layout. People stopping me in the street and said that they could tell that there was more programming and that they had enjoyed it more this year.”

New MP for East Oxford Annelise Dodds said: “Massive thx to all involved in @CowleyCarnival today. So much effort from organisers, volunteers, paraders & stallholders. Just awesome.”

The Organisers would like carnivalgoers to complete a short online survey to help gauge the success of the festival. Please click the link here. http://bit.ly/2sw1FEL

The festival had a new layout, with festivalgoers spread all round the site which stretched from the Plain to the Global Dance Stage at the Asian Cultural Centre, the Discovery zone at the Church of St Mary & St John and the City Arms where local indie bands performed, staged by students of the SAE college.

Indonesian dancer Stu Allsopp

Indonesian dancer Stu Allsopp

Little Indonesia, sponsored the Indonesia Embassy proving popular for the multitude of food stalls all serving delicious authentic dishes, with batik workshops, national costume dressing up and even a giant kimono dragon.

Sandoko Kosen, I’m the President of the Indonesian students’ association in Oxford (PPI Oxford). The Cowley Road Carnival never disappoints! It is an amazing experience being able to promote Indonesia through the culinary and cultural stalls. Thank you for the opportunity in allowing us to participate in our very first procession in the history of the carnival. Through different traditional costumes, we hope we can send the message of ‘Unity in Diversity’ to the general public. Thank you and congratulations to the Carnival organisers for the impressive work!


Owen Acland, Centre Manager of Templars Square, there with the mascot Templeton said: “Yesterday was a great day and lovely to see so many people out enjoying themselves.  Templeton made three appearances and gave hundreds of balloons out to many children who enjoyed seeing him and having their photo taken with him.”

Oxford Brookes University brought two robots to Carnival. Artie the humanoid robot stayed at the Brookes zone while his brother Martie took part in the procession. Andrea Siret, Andrea Siret Head of Alumni and Community Engagement, said: “Oxford Brookes staff, students and alumni joined in the fun at Cowley Road Carnival by engaging with a record number of visitors at our Brookes Zone and taking part in the procession.  There was such an amazing atmosphere and all those involved very much enjoyed being part of this vibrant community event. “

The day owes much of its success to the team of nearly 100 volunteers who help to organise the day. Anna Poulton, Volunteer Coordinator said: “As the I would like to say a thank you to our amazing volunteer team it was great to have so many people contributing to Carnival.

Volunteers photograph by Laura Greene

Volunteers photograph by Laura Greene

Recep Emre, one of the volunteers here in the UK from Turkey to study for a Masters Degree said, “I joined the Cowley Road festival as a volunteer. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great chance to meet with people and socialise. On the other hand, I love volunteering because I think somebody should support this kind of event being a part of this kind activities will be good memories for one.  Thanks for everything I hope to be a part of next year.”

Penny Garner, from Witney, who is studying to be a social worker acted as an Associate Producer with the Carnival team. Helping to organise group of nearly 100 volunteers, she said “I have never done carnival before and to do it from this side has been an incredible experience.  I was quite nervous at first, as I didn’t know what to expect. I soon realised how much thought, preparation and hard work goes into it.  It was a lot of hard work. But today the vibe was incredible. To see the community coming together like this is a great thing.”

However, despite celebrating the success of the Carnival, which has just won Oxfordshire Business Award for tourism and cultural event, organisers were disappointed that only £8,300 was raised from the carnival-goers as part of the Give a Pound to keep Carnival Around campaign.

Johannah said: “I am so delighted with Carnival 2017, it really was fantastic, the new festival layout coupled with over 50% more content and programming made many thousands more people come and stay the whole day long, we were well over 50,000 visitors this year and the audience and programming was impressively diverse and inspiring … many, many messages, emails and phone calls from agencies, supporters and long-time audience members saying it was the best carnival they have ever experienced…. the only downside to the whole day was the very low levels of donated income.

“In theory, if we ask everyone for a £1 donation to come in then we should get to collect £50,000 on the day. We understand that not all people may be able to pay so we estimated that we may get £20,000. We desperately need this to help support the close to £150,000 production and clean-up costs of Carnival.

“When a pint is pushing at least £4 and cigarettes are even more…it seems very sad that people cannot donate just £1 to a whole day of food, entertainment and arts. I pay £2 just to support my tiny village fate and I pay up to £30 or more just to go and see a single gig for an hour. We have provided an excellent programme of impressive and extraordinary performers here at the Cowley Road Carnival. It would be life affirming and very much appreciated if people could all just donate £1, to help support their biggest and most loved community event … Carnival.

“I know that it feels that Carnival just magically appears ad disappears but every year it’s the result of 12 months hard work and relentless fundraising – it really is the least the community could do to show how much they enjoy and love their Carnival and how much they value this precious celebration of who they are and where they live.”

If you can donate £1 or more to keep Carnival around  please click here.

If you would like to read our evaluation documents, please click on the links below:

COWLEY ROAD CARNIVAL Exec Summary Doc 2017

Final Cowley Road Carnival Evaluation 2017 KL

Cowley Road Carnival final infographic 2017