Website celebrating May Day festivities in Oxford. Expanding all the time - come back soon

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!

New: vintage videos

Huge thanks to Nobby Clark (age 96) of Wootton near Abingdon for supplying some fascinating vintage footage. Below, a cantankerous red dragon causes havoc on Broad Street in 1997. See also May Day Events and The Morris in Oxford (Women in the Morris) in the menu above for further vintage videos. More of Nobby's footage to come!

May Morning Oxford, 1997 (video Nobby Clark)

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 this year 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.

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.

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.

www.timhealey.co.uk

Email contact to right

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

NOTE: May Day 2020 falls on a Friday

 

LINKS

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

See https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20035/events/559/may_morning_in_oxford  

Daily Information highlights concerts, gigs, and much more. See www.dailyinfo.co.uk/mayday 

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