This year May Day falls on a Wednesday
The annual May Day celebrations are an incredibly strong tradition in Oxford, involving rising early (or staying up all night) to hear the choir sing from Magdalen tower, Morris dancing, folk music, May balls, sumptuous breakfasts and of course, 6am pub openings, in a rather joyful community event which attracted over 20,000 people when it landed on a bank holiday Monday in 2017.
Cut to the chase and get your May Day breakfast info!
You can safely assume that this bit of May Day will stay the same year in, year out. The Magdalen College choir will sing the 7 minute long Hymnus Eucharisticus from the Great Tower as the sun comes up at 6.00am, followed by a madrigal or two and prayers. Afterwards you can expect to hear 20 minutes of expert bell-ringing from the Oxford Society of Change Ringers. The Oxford May Morning celebrations make up the largest audience of bell-ringing in the UK, with the possible exception of some royal weddings.
Bridge & TrafficThe bridge will be closed to drivers from 2.00am and reopen as soon as revellers have dispersed, which should be around 9.00am.
Magdalen Bridge will be open to pedestrians and closed to drivers and cyclists this year. If you’re coming to listen to the choir then it's worth getting near the bridge around 5.00am as it gets very busy from quite early on. The 2018 crowd management system will remain in place this year, with one-way channels created to enable the crowd to flow during and immediately after the event; people wanting to cross the bridge on foot will need to ‘keep left.’ Please note that bicycles - ridden and pushed - will not be allowed to cross the bridge during the event. There will also be designated gathering areas for wheelchair users, families with young children and those with buggies in the car park of Magdalen College School and in Rose Lane.
Oxford City Council have advised that the following road closures (including bikes) will be in place from 2.00am to 9.00am on the 1st May:
A420 High Street: from The Plain to east of junction with King Edward Street
Longwall Street: from junction with High Street to Holywell St junction
Rose Lane: entire street
Merton Street: junction with High Street (entry and exit via King Edward Street)
Queen’s Lane: entire street to junction with High Steet
Please note that Broad Street will not be closed to traffic on May Morning. Members of the public should be aware that the road could still see some vehicles.
Check the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach websites for service updates on the buses they will have to reroute to avoid Magdalen Bridge, generally these divert towards Iffley Road – Donnington Bridge – Abingdon Road.
For alternative driving/walking/cycling routes between East Oxford and the city centre, try:
- Travelling via Donnington Bridge & Abingdon Road
- Follow the river (on foot/bike) from Donnington to Folly Bridge and then into town
- Going along Marston Road - Marston Ferry Road - Banbury Road
Outside St John's, May Morning 2017 (photo Susie Healey www.maymorning.co.uk)
Oxford City Morris Men and Oxford University Morris Men will dance alongside other local sides including Eynsham Morris on May morning.
The groups will collect the crowds at Magdalen Bridge after the choir have finished up, and process down High Street, beginning dancing, as usual, in Radcliffe Square between the University Church and the Camera at about 6.15am. After that the dancing will continue at various points around the city (interrupted by breakfast) including outside the White Horse on Broad Street and near the Martyr's Memorial on St Giles. Other sides are likely to be found elsewhere in the city as well. The dancers may then migrate as in previous years to North Parade for more dancing, music, singing etc. from around midday, until exhaustion (or beer) gets the better of them.
Over in Jericho, the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers will be dancing well-known Morris dances (Morris and Rapper) outside the Anchor in Jericho from 6.30am.
If you want to know more about Morris dancing (and so you should!) then, of course, we have got a handy page to explain this traditional form of dance just here.
Radcliffe Square, May Morning 2018 (photo Tim Healey www.maymorning.co.uk)
If you fancy something a bit more lively after the choir then head to the steps of the Clarendon Building on Broad Street for 6.15am to hear the now-traditional (since 2004!) Whirly Band. This green-clad gang of Oxford's finest pipers, drummers, fiddlers, squeezebox players and assorted folkies will be welcoming May in with Rough Music that's old as the hills and as fresh as spring. Come shake yer bones and remember you're alive!
Sol Samba will be performing on Magdalen Bridge after the choir have finished singing up in the tower. Horns of Plenty will play a set at Queen's Lane. The Horns are expected to decamp to Radcliffe Square after that, before finishing with a set in the Vaults and Garden cafe.
Check out the wonderful www.maymorning.co.uk for a thorough overview of Oxford's May traditions including information about where to find all sorts of musical fun throughout the morning.
Part of the fun of May Morning can be staying up the night before. We've gathered here some of the different events happening around the city so you can start your May Day celebrations the night before the morning after. See the sidebar on the left of the page for all these events collected in one place!
|When?||Where and what? (E = east of Magdalen Bridge, W = west of the bridge)|
Tick Tock Café, 3-5 Cowley Road , 01865 200777 (E)
Taylors (High St), 58 High Street, 01865 723152 (W)
Patisserie Valerie, 90 High Street, 01865 725415 (W)
The Turf Tavern, 4-5 Bath Place, 01865 243235 (W)
Organic Deli Café, 24 Friars Entry, 01865 364853 (W)
The Old Black Horse Hotel, 102 St Clements,, 01865 244691 (E)
Green's Café (St Giles), 50 St Giles, 01865 316878 (W)
Jericho Café, 112 Walton Street, 01865 310840 (W)
George Street Social, 35 New Inn Hall Street , 01865 204735 (W)
G & D's (George & Danver), 94 St Aldate's, 01865 245952 (W)
G & D's (George and Delila), 104 Cowley Road, 01865 727111 (E)
The White Horse (central Oxford), 52 Broad Street, 01865 204801 (W)
The King's Arms, Holywell Street, 40 Holywell Street, 01865 242369 (W)
The Missing Bean, 14 Turl Street, 01865 794886 (W)
Quod, 92-94 High Street, 01865 202505 (W)
The Anchor Inn, 2 Hayfield Road, 01865 510282 (W)
The Bear Inn (Alfred St), 6 Alfred Street, 01865 728164 (W)
The Vaults & Garden, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, 01865 279112 (W)
Colombia Coffee Roasters, 106-107 The Covered Market,, 01865 558253 (W)
St Aldate's Tavern, 108 St Aldate's, 01865 241185 (W)
The Handle Bar, @ Bike Zone, 01865 251315 (W)
Brown's (Covered Market), Avenue 4 , 01865 243436 (W)
Common Ground Workspace, 37-38 Little Clarendon St, Oxford (W)
Are you doing something interesting for May Eve / May Day? Or have we missed off something you know about? List it online instantly and for free by clicking here or emailing the details to firstname.lastname@example.org
See the City Council's official May Morning website here