Enjoying Tradfolk? Click here to find out how you can support us
Morris Dancers at Folk Weekend Oxford
Photo via Folk Weekend Oxford Facebook Page

A mini-guide to Folk Weekend Oxford

Are you heading to Folk Weekend Oxford this year? If not, we intend to make you very jealous and think about your choices carefully.

Folk Weekend Oxford is upon us, and whether it rains or shines, everyone’s in the mood for a right jolly knees-up. It really has been too long, hasn’t it? We’ll be there, eager to lap up the gigs everything, session with the best of them, and shake our limbs right off at one of the ceilidhs.

Truth be told, though, we’re a bit out practice when it comes to thumbing through thick festival programmes, and we imagine you’re similarly lacking in match fitness. So we thought we’d throw together a quick mini-guide to help you make your minds up this weekend.

In this mini-guide you’ll find…

A brief overview of Folk Weekend Oxford

Despite being an Oxford folk festival in all but name, this isn’t the Oxford Folk Festival. That was cancelled in 2011. Folk Weekend Oxford was the subsequent brainchild of Cat McGill, who launched the new venture a year later, making 2022 something of a 10th anniversary.

The weekend spreads across the whole city, with various venues providing stages for gigs, workshops, ceilidhs, sessions and family events, and Morris dancing spilling onto the streets. (See the interactive map below to find out what’s on and where.) Rather than buying a wristband ticket for the whole thing, visitors purchase individual tickets for each event, all of which are reasonably priced and some of which offer a tier system to suit your own budget.

When the pandemic forced the cancellation of 2020’s events, Cat McGill had another brainchild, and within five weeks had found a way to put many of the events online. The idea morphed into the ongoing Live to Your Living Room series, which has been extraordinarily successful, and lifeblood for folk musicians and fans alike. McGill was awarded a British Empire Medal as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2021. The medal will be presented at a special ceremony during this year’s festivities – you’ll find details on page 15 of the official programme.

Some of the events this weekend will also be streamed over the Live to Your Living Room platform, meaning you can take part from afar. Keep an eye out for the links in the recommendations below. Many of the smaller events, including some being promoted by the excelled Big Ginger Tom Music, will be available as Facebook events.

Gigs we won’t be missing

Friday, May 22nd

Belshazzar’s Feast
Friends Meeting House
8pm, tickets here

Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin are celebrating 25 years together, including 9 acclaimed albums… by splitting up. Yes, sadly this will be the second gig on their farewell tour. If you’ve never seen them before, expect expertly played tunes from the traditional archives, as well as plenty of tomfoolery. A very funny, incredibly talented pair of musicians that will be much missed.

Nick Hart
St Aldates Tavern
8pm, tickets here

OK, so a lot of these gigs overlap and it’s going to be very difficult to see them all, but regular readers will know that we’re big fans of Nick Hart. As he gears up to release his new album, Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs, this gig comes at the beginning of a lengthy UK tour. You’ll want to get tickets while you can. This is a young man already at the top of his game.

Sam Carter
Harwell Village Hall
7:30pm, tickets here

A renowned narrative songwriter, a fingerpicking folk guitarist of extraordinary dexterity, and a member of folk-rock supergroup, False Lights, Sam Carter is one for your list if you like your songs with stories. Supported by Wednesday’s Wolves. Note that Harwell Village Hall is approximately 25 mins from Oxford City centre by car.

Saturday, May 23rd

Granny’s Attic
St Aldates Tavern
4pm, SOLD OUT | Live to Your Living Room

Frustratingly (unless you’re a member of Granny’s Attic or one of the lucky bleeders who managed to get a ticket) this gig is already sold out. Our review of their 2021 album, The Brickfields, should give you some idea why, as well as good reason to keep an eye open for your next Attic-visiting opportunity.

Angeline Morrison
St Aldates Tavern
6pm, tickets here

Take it from us, Angeline Morrison’s forthcoming album, The Sorrow Songs, is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, taking the stories of black lives throughout British history and setting them to tunes heavily inspired by the folk tradition. You can read our in-depth interview with Angeline here.

Martin Carthy
The Old Fire Station

For us, Saturday night at Folk Weekend Oxford, 2022, is all about The Guv’nor. For so many traditional folk musicians, young and not so young, it all started with this man. Few can claim the influence that Martin Carthy can. A pioneer of folk guitar, an unrivalled scholar and arranger of traditional folk songs… so many superlatives, all of them justified. The gig is sold out, so get on the waiting list if you know what’s good for you.

Sunday, May 24th

The Fay Hield Trio
Jacqueline du Pre Music Building
3:30pm, tickets here | Live to Your Living Room

There aren’t many people who know as much about traditional songs as Fay Hield, and when you go to a tradfolk gig as a newbie, that’s what you want – someone who can tell you what’s going on. She’s a great storyteller, too: her most recent album, the acclaimed Wrackline, gave a host of traditional stories fresh musical context (here’s a challenge: watch the video above and see how long it takes you to get that tune out of your head… it’s a real earworm). She has a killer band with her, too. Look out for Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron, peerless musicians in their own right.

The Melrose Quartet
Jacqueline du Pre Music Building
7:30pm, tickets here | Live to Your Living Room

Martin Simpson, a man who has seen his fair share of folk bands, has described the Melrose Quartet as, “an inspired ensemble, so obviously playing for joy”. Featuring sublimely talented musicians such as Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, they’re a real treat for lovers of live music, combining their love for four-part harmony singing with deliciously stompable instrumentals.

Dances we have to see

Morris dancing

Randomly throw a stick or waft a hanky at Folk Weekend Oxford and you’re likely to hit a Morris dancer. There is Morris dancing everywhere. And, in the words of the weekend’s patron, Jackie Oates, “they’re all lovely”. If you want to try to see every single step, you’ll find the festival programme here, but if you can only catch a handful and you want to see the various forms of this traditional dance at their best, try and get along to these dance-outs.

Brackley Morris Men
Ashmolean Museum
10am, Saturday, May 23rd

Brackley Morris Men have records dating back to the 1700s, and are one of only seven Cotswold Morris sides that the Morris Ring list as ‘traditional’. They’ll be kicking things off at Folk Weekend Oxford’s opening ceremony. Expect a crowd. You’ll also catch them at midday outside the Radcliffe Camera, at 1:30pm in Bonn Square, at 2:30pm on Broad Street, and at 3:30pm at Oxford Castle.

Black Swan Border Morris
Bonn Square
11am, Saturday, May 23rd

A relatively new side, having formed in 2013, this mixed-gender team dances an interpretation of the style that originates from the Welsh borders, which can be traced back to the 16th century. They’ll also be dancing at midday at the Pitt Rivers Museum, at 1pm at Radcliffe Camera, and at 3:30pm on Broad Street.

Chiltern Hundreds Clog Morris
Ashmolean Museum
11am, Saturday, May 23rd

Dancing the North West Clog Morris style, the Chiltern Hundreds have been doing their high-kicking clacky thing since 1992 and are considered some of the finest exponents of this dancing style. You can also catch them at 12:30pm at Oxford Castle, at 2:30pm in Bonn Square, and at 3:30pm on Broad Street, as well as various times on Sunday, too (see the official guide for more details).

Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers
Bonn Square
11:30am, Sunday, May 24th

Few sides can demonstrate a lineage quite like Bampton. These dancers can trace their traditional village dances back over centuries, and their Whit Monday events (Saturday, June 4th this year) are a chance to see that brought to vivid life. Catch them at Folk Weekend Oxford on Sunday. They’ll also be dancing at 12:30pm at the Radcliffe Camera, at the Ashmolean at 2pm, and in Bonn Square again at 4pm.

There are so many Morris sides we want to see dance this weekend (Wreckers Border Morris, Hook Eagle Morris – we’re looking at you), we simply can’t fit them all into this mini-guide. Check out the official Morris dancing schedule here.


Of course, if you’re only watching the dancing, you may be missing the point. There are four ceilidhs for you to shake your own limbs at. Strict COVID rules apply.

On Friday night, the Oxford University Ceilidh Band joins forces with callers Alex Burgar and Tim Davies, as well as the Oxford City Morris Men. That kicks off at St Barnabas Church, 7:15pm, tickets here.

On Saturday afternoon, Reading Balfolk brings European dances to St Barnabas Church, with music from Shivelight and Sawney White. 3pm, tickets here.

Saturday afternoon also sees a family and SEN ceilidh. For more info, head to the families section of this mini-guide.

The last ceilidh of the weekend takes place on Saturday evening, also at St Barnabas Church. Music from Jigfoot, with caller Ian Nichols. 7:15pm, tickets here.

Sessions we’ll be fools not to attend

As with the Morris dancing, you’ll find tradfolk sessions taking place all over the city. Which ones to attend will depend very much on your own tastes, so it’s worth perusing the official guide and seeing what tickles your fancy.

For those that like a late-night lock-in (as opposed to lockdown) atmosphere, look for the Survivor Sessions, taking place after the last gigs and dances have finished. On Friday and Saturday, these take place at the Royal Blenheim from 11pm. On Sunday, you’ll find them running from 10pm at the Port Mahon.

We’re told by several people in the know that, for a bit of modern folk history, you might want to attend sessions at the Half Moon. Why? Because this is the very pub in which various members of Bellowhead, Spiers & Boden, the Ratcatchers and Faustus got to know each other many moons ago.

For young families

Jackie Oates
The Story Museum
2:30pm, tickets here

Jackie Oates is known not only for her traditional folk albums, but also for her recordings of children’s songs. Anyone who has ever typed ‘lullabies’ into Spotify’s search engine will have come across her exquisite album of the same name. She’ll be performing songs from that album, plus a selection of the nursery rhymes she recorded for Yoto during lockdown, at the Story Museum on Saturday afternoon.

Family and SEN Ceilidh
St Barnabas Church
11am, tickets here

An inclusive ceilidh for families and people with special educational needs, with caller Jane Bird and music from the Family Ceilidh Oxford team.

An interactive folk Weekend Oxford map

Please note that this interactive map does not represent every event and venue at Folk Weekend Oxford. We have only included the places mentioned in this mini-guide. For a more in-depth map, download the pdf from the official site.

For the full Folk Weekend Oxford Programme, head to folkweekendoxford.co.uk