Website celebrating May Day festivities in Oxford

Magdalen Bridge, May Morning 2021 (photo Tim Healey). Huddles of students appeared around 6am but the bridge was clear an hour later.

LOCKDOWN! With restrictions on public gatherings, Oxford's traditional May Morning celebrations did not take place in 2020 or 2021. However, various virtual May Mornings were held online in 2020 including a singing by the Magdalen College Choir. For 2021, Oxford City Council reported: 

Following last year’s success of the online event, which has been viewed over 66,000 times on Youtube, the City Council and Magdalen College are encouraging people to get involved using #MayMorning.

 #MayMorning will begin online just before 6am and will be opened by the Choir of Magdalen College welcoming in spring with Hymnus Eucharisticus and some traditional madrigals for May Morning. This will be in an exciting new format to last year.

 The Choir’s May Morning pre-recorded performance will begin just before 6am on air on their Facebook page with an introduction by the President of Magdalen.



Vignettes from the lockdown in 2020. Cry Havoc and Wolvercote Morris were among sides who provided virtual morris displays, while Horns of Plenty performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow at a range of sites around Oxford - observing proper social distancing. Thanks to all three outfits for giving permission to use their footage and stills. The rainbows were seen on a May Morning walk for exercise around South Oxford.

Listening to the choir at Magdalen Tower, May Morning 2018 (photo Tim Healey). Some 12,000 are reckoned to have attended that year and 13,500 in 2019 - big turnouts for weekdays. Even larger crowds appear when May Day falls on a weekend or Bank Holiday. A record 27,000 turned up in 2017.

May morning in Oxford is famous for the thousands who gather at 6am to hear a Latin hymn sung from the top of Magdalen College tower.

It is an extraordinary ceremony, but only one feature of Oxford tradition. Maytime revels take place all over the city, and were already controversial in Britain in 1250 when the Chancellor of Oxford University forbade ‘alike in churches, all dancing in masks or with disorderly noises, and all processions of men wearing wreaths and garlands made of leaves of trees or flowers or what not.’

This website honours both the historic celebrations and the joyous spontaneity of revels today. You will find photos, videos and any amount of abstruse information about maypoles and morris and much more besides.

Up the May!

The May Ox on Aristotle Bridge, May Morning 2019 (photo Tim Healey). Eynsham Morris provided the escort, and improvised Emperors' Heads were borne on poles behind the garlanded Ox.

2019: Return of the May Ox

For about 20 years a garlanded ox bearing a maid on its back appeared on May Morning at Aristotle Bridge in North Oxford.  The effigy was created by the late Michael Black, the sculptor who restored the solemn, bearded Emperors' Heads outside the Sheldonian Theatre. Michael Black helped to create an alternative May Morning in North Oxford, inviting morris dancers to his home in Chalfont Road and furnishing them with a beery breakfast known as 'Black's Treat'. The nearby Anchor pub was a focus for the public celebrations. Events declined in recent years due to the sculptor’s ill-health, and on St Valentine’s Day in 2019 Michael Black died at the age of 90. In tribute to his memory the Ox returned to Aristotle Bridge on May Morning 2019.

For a video of the 2019 celebration see May Day Events in the menu above.

On North Parade, May Day 2018 (photo Tim Healey)

Abingdon Traditional Morris at the Bridge of Sighs, May Morning 2017 (photo Tim Healey)

Sol Samba on the High Street, May Morning 2017 (photo Tim Healey)

This site is maintained by writer and broadcaster Tim Healey. Thanks to the many friends who have contributed material.

Email contact to right

Click on Menu above for events details, photo gallery, videos and pages on the historic background.


Oxford City Council maintains a website devoted to May Day, with important notes on bus transport, road closures and parking.


Daily Information highlights concerts, gigs, and much more. See 

Folk in Oxford offers a round-the-year survey of the traditional music scene and how to join in. See