Christmas Light Festival 2017

Image courtesy of Liberty Rocks

We are delighted to announce OVADA’s commissioned artists for the Christmas Light Festival wayfinding project as Liberty Rocks. The artists are working with students from the City of Oxford College to create signage for this year’s Christmas Light Festival which runs from 17 – 19 November 2017. The wayfinding structures will be positioned around Oxford to help audiences navigate the city and festival activities, which includes a spectacular lantern parade, a festive market on Broad Street and installations at Oxford Castle and the newly opened Westgate Oxford.

The artists are currently working with students who are studying Furniture Design and Making to create original pieces that respond to the individual locations across Oxford city centre and interact with visitors to the Christmas Light Festival.

For the lower Broad Street wayfinder design, students acknowledged the three Oxford Martyrs who were tried for heresy in 1555 and burnt at the stake. The three martyrs, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer were executed in the area where Broad Street is now located for their religious beliefs and teachings. The design of this wayfinder references the small cobbled cross outside of Bailiol Collage where the Martyrs were burnt. The artists used layers of plastic to incorporate drawings, colours and sketches, in order to replicate a stained glass window.

Students chose to create number plate style wayfinders in the Gloucester Green design to reference the transport hub of the city, including a taxi rank, underground car park, bus station and the vehicles used by the numerous market traders each week. This number plate style pays tribute to Oxford’s automotive history and William Morris’ Cowley Factory, known today as MINI Plant Oxford. The main shape of this wayfinder also references the Art Deco style of the cinema building, currently Odeon, built in the 1930s to the designs of Robert Cromie.

The building featured in the Carfax wayfinder represents the Swindlestock Tavern, now the site of the Santander Bank on the corner of St Aldate’s and Queen Street. It was the drink served in that tavern that sparked off the St Scholastica’s Day Riot on 10 February 1355 and continued for three days. Some of the university students frequenting the Swindlestock Tavern complained about the quality of the wine (other sources say beer!) and after “snappish words” between them and the innkeeper, the students threw the drinks at the innkeeper’s head. In the scuffle that ensued a battle commenced which resulted in the death of around 30 townsmen and 63 gownsmen. The inscription on the wall of the Santander Bank marks the site of the Swindlestock Tavern from 1205 – 1709. 

The design for the Oxford Castle wayfinder references the medieval design and stonework visible across the historic site, including St George’s Tower. Built in 1074 the tallest of the castle’s towers covered the approach to the old West Gate of the city. Other designs incorporate Oxford’s distinct architecture and existing street furniture, such as traditional lamp posts. The students have also taken inspiration from symbols they associate with Christmas including festive lighting and reindeer, to respond to the theme of this year’s festival; ‘The World in Oxford’.

Look out for the wayfinders in the following locations between 17-19 November 2017: Oxford Castle, Westgate Oxford, Carfax, Broad Street and Gloucester Green!

Liberty Rocks is a dynamic artistic partnership founded in 2010 between artistic director, creator and immersive theatre specialist, Ruby Jennings, and Producer, writer and devisor, Juliet Webb. Liberty Rocks specialises in outdoor moving theatre, working across a range of media, from steel sculpture to installation, immersive theatre and circus. Their work is always interactive with audience members becoming part of the narrative in order to complete the story. Past projects have involved building a range of exciting and innovative outdoor sculptural works for commissioners including Glastonbury Festival, Boomtown Fair, Secret Garden Party and Arts Council England.

For a full programme of Christmas Light Festival events visit:

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