Catweazle is the kind of event that you can go to only once in your life, or go once a week, and it will be unique and special no matter what.
The strong scent of incense hits you as you enter the candlelit East Oxford Community Centre, tables are laid out in cabaret style, sofas strewn with blankets and cushions cover the floor. If you want to avoid sitting on the floor or standing at the back near the bar, then you’ll want to get there early, at least by 7.45pm. To guarantee yourself a good seat, sign up to perform in front of the glittery golden backdrop from 7pm and you’ll get free entry too.
Catweazle is the cultural evening that so many other events wish they were. There is an inclusiveness rarely felt or seen elsewhere in Oxford; audience and performers are of all ages and from all backgrounds and cultures (indeed there’s regularly a substantial international flavour to the performances), so you’ll rub shoulders with all manner of Oxford communities – and they’re quite good at politely plugging other similar happenings in the area too.
At Catweazle you are silent whilst your peers perform. You will be glared at if you have your phone out, or share more than a few whispers with your neighbours, and eventually you too will, in turn, glower at those behaving badly. Everyone who performs is quietly appreciated and most perform their own material, sometimes even for the first time to a public audience.
Things I’ve seen at Catweazle include, but are not limited to: a Rastafarian playing Bob Marley on the violin, two handy-men from Leamington Spa singing opera, magical storytelling, all manner of poetry, hilarious comedy-songs and myriad singer-songwriters pouring their hearts out. You don't know what you’ll see, but you do know you’ll leave with profound respect for all the artists who shared their work with you.
Catweazle triumphs because it is deeply authentic, has a democratic feel to it and is an extremely supportive environment to perform in thanks to the focused attentiveness. Although I imagine little in essence has changed in its 20-year existence, Catweazle does now have a mailing list, Twitter feed and quarterly magazine too (which is also always looking for contributions), which are all worth knowing about if you want to go along or get involved.