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Oxford’s Light Festival

29/11/2021

Oxford’s Light Festival has become an iconic way to mark the start of the festive season, with an exciting programme of events and displays cheerfully illuminating the city over one special weekend each year. Fusion Arts has been one of the partner organisations of the festival since it was established in 2009, and in the years prior, when it was known as WinterLight Festival.

Each year, Fusion Arts works with a number of artists, schools and community groups to deliver innovative lantern-building workshops and collaborates with partner organisations to run memorable and inspiring community events as part of the festival. Scroll down to read more about some of these events and workshops over the years.

For information about our Son et Lumiere work for Oxford's Light Festival, click here.

“Catered for real life people from every background coming together to enjoy the start of Christmas – magical!”

Lantern-Making Over the Years

For Oxford's 2021 Light Festival, the focus was shifted onto communities and the art of staying connected. Rather than the usual city centre parade, this year over 8,000 people instead enjoyed creative local events and light trails that turned community hubs into astonishing, magical places.

In total there were 28 community celebrations which were the collaborative effort of more than 50 organisations, artists, schools, community groups and volunteers in Oxford working together to produce their own celebrations of light.

In the months leading up to the festival, Fusion Arts worked with 13 community artists alongside teachers and group leaders across Oxford to run workshops that engaged over 960 people in building more than 980 lanterns to be displayed proudly during festival events. Workshops were held in schools, colleges, organisations and community centres, with almost 800 of the participants being young people. During workshops, participants learnt how to build lanterns in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs using sustainably sourced willow branches and tissue paper.


In the run up to the festival, we were delighted to open our online lantern kit store once again. People were able to order DIY kits and assemble lovely light-up star shaped lanterns at home pre-festival, with the option to 'pay it forward' and help us distribute extra kits to others free of charge. We employed artist Jumana Hokun who illustrated this beautiful lantern making instructional guide, which we printed with GreenPrint, making use of their eco friendly Risograph process. These guides were incorporated into the fully biodegradable lantern packs and delivered locally via bike courier service Pedal and Post. Overall, 77 lantern kits were sold, and enough material for a further 100 lanterns was purchased via bulk order.

We also worked with artists Dee Moxon and Amy Peck to deliver a free online family friendly workshop that showed participants how to upcycle household rubbish and everyday items into stunning nature-themed lanterns.


With approximately 1,060 lanterns assembled we were all ready to dive into the festival fun!

Glow Your Own

During spring and summer 2021, Fusion Arts supported Oxford Science and Ideas Festival to deliver a series of free workshops called Glow Your Own for Oxford residents. These workshops fused together technology and the creative arts, teaching participants how to build small LED lanterns that flash in sequences and colours controlled by computer code. We brought in artist Cj — Carise AleJandro, who collaborated with Glow Your Own participants and youth from the Leys CDI summer club to develop this work into a supersized responsive light-up LED artwork called Circuit of Life. This was then installed at Blackbird Leys Community Centre and debuted with a free switch-on event for Oxford Light Festival that allowed the public to interact with the high tech creation. Using phones and QR codes, people sent the lights instructions to glow with amazing patterns, colours and images! Click to watch a video of the installation in Blackbird Leys.

Finding the Light

We partnered with FloFest to illuminate Florence Park for a very special community event on Saturday 20th November. With the support of local residents, Larkrise Primary School and Activate Learning, we turned the park into one big magical light celebration featuring a tree cathedral, light sculptures, dance performances, light trails, a lantern procession and even a laser show disco finish!The lanterns made by schools, groups and artists were proudly displayed in a community lantern patch and along the pathways of the park. Some 3,500 - 4,000 local residents visited the event throughout the night, adding to the celebrations and sharing in the experience with their own lanterns, torches and lit-up hula hoops. The night was packed with fun from start to finish, with plenty of food, music and inspiring displays on offer.

Talented students at Activate Learning documented the night and turned it into a series of short films which are a lovely memento of the evening. You can watch these here.

The evening was a major success with attendees loving the inclusivity of this free outdoor event. The whole night was made possible by local Cowley Councillors Amar and Paula, and by Oxford Business Park, who kindly sponsored the event. This support enabled us to involve and work more artists, schools and volunteers than we ever have before, helping to bring further value to the heart of the community.

By rooting this years' activities and celebrations in local communities, Oxford Light Festival has been able widen its inclusivity and increase the number of individuals who feel connected through the project. We are looking forward to building on these successes for 2022’s festival, working with partners, artists and communities to bring people together, celebrate the diversity of the city and engage people in creativity.

Photos by Fusion Arts and Ed Nix.

In 2019 together with Oxford County Council, Fusion Arts worked with local artists, schools and community groups to create small and large lanterns under the theme of 'Discovery' for Oxford's Light Festival.

The lanterns formed part of the city centre lantern parade on 15th November 2019, a stunning spectacle that passed through the streets of Oxford, admired by large crowds and onlookers.


Photos by Fusion Arts and Ed Nix.

During the autumn and winter of 2018, Fusion Arts worked with 11 primary schools, two secondary schools, three community groups, and 10 artists to deliver lantern workshops in schools and community settings across Oxford. Artists and groups worked together to create designs and lanterns inspired by the festival’s theme of ‘Undiscovered Oxford’.

In addition to the artist-led workshops, some teachers also attended a twilight session where they were taught how to run the activities within their own classroom setting.

On Friday the 16th November 2018, a stunning procession of lights wound its way through the excited crowds that filled the magical streets of Oxford. The designs included a towering king inspired by the Arthurian legend, glowing astrolabes from the History of Science Museum’s Islamic instruments, a ghostly canoe inspired by the history of Oxford’s subterranean Trill Mill Stream, transformers from film sets and spooky castle turrets. The following day, on Saturday the 17th November, Fusion Arts took over an empty shop to run a pyramid lantern workshop for the community to attend.

In November 2008, Fusion Arts placed community artists within local schools to work with pupils to create an array of festive lanterns for the WinterLight Festival procession in Bonn Square.

Now known as Oxford's Light Festival, the WinterLight festival took place from mid-November to early January across Oxfordshire and brought a host of festive events to the city and county, including displays of illuminations, candlelight and fire. One of the highlights of Oxford’s WinterLight in 2008 was a spectacular outdoor event that celebrated the reopening of Bonn Square in central Oxford, featuring live music, street theatre and dance performances.

The wonderful French brass band Les Grooms created a special musical fanfare that brought the new square to life, and was followed by an illuminated procession through the city centre that featured giant lanterns, school groups and live musicians. 

To round off the festival procession, the pyrotechnic company Walk the Plank put on a street theatre performance inspired by the theme of space, transforming Broad Street with ‘awe and wonder’ to mark the start of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

 The festival also marked the much-anticipated city switch-on of the Christmas Lights and the Christmas Tree in Broad Street.

WinterLight Oxford 2008 was supported by Arts Council England, Oxford City Council, Berman Guedes Stretton, First Great Western, Oxford Bus Company, Oxfordshire County Council and The Big Bang.

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Supporters of Fusion Arts

Oxford City Council Arts Council England National Lottery Funded Project Grant National Lottery Community Fund Oxfordshire Community Foundation Here for Culture Doris Field Charitable Trust BBC Children in Need