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Magdalen College School Arts Festival

Plays, concerts, workshops and speaker events open to MCS and the wider community. A number of education and outreach projects run throughout the year, culminating in the Festival.

The 2015 Festival included poetry workshops for local schools at the Ashmolean Museum; a community art project using postcards; a free schools performance of Alice in Wonderland; a poetry competition, which received hundreds of entries from a diverse range of local schools; a dramatic collaboration with the Oxford Academy; a debate accompanied by workshops and a competition for local schools; the Oxfordshire Youth Poetry Slam, including workshops and development sessions at 8 schools; workshops for children with literacy difficulties in association with our production of Alice at the Oxford Playhouse; a Proms Concert involving local primary school children at the Sheldonian Theatre; an event at Bonn Square showcasing community performers, including schools

2016 projects include a theatre piece inspired by local immigration stories; a free schools performance and workshop series around our production of The Wind in the Willows; a writing course for Gifted and Talented primary school pupils; a WW1 commemorative photography project; a collaborative project for writers and composers; poetry, short stories and short film competitions; a music project focussed on jazz.


The Festival promotes access to cultural engagement programmes, which aim to actively involve young people in creative activities, extend their cultural experience, broaden their horizons and develop their skills.

Beneficiaries include not only the students, staff, alumni and parents at Magdalen College School but pupils from 35 county schools as well as residents and visitors to Oxfordshire.

Critical factors for success include a range of income sources, including Arts Council England and local city and county council grant funding, individual donations and corporate sponsorship.

Partnership work with existing cultural organisations is also an important factor. We work with the city council's culture team, local theatres such as the Oxford Playhouse and Pegasus Theatre as well as with Oxford University and its museums (e.g. Ashmolean Museum, Museum of the History of Science).


The project began in 2009, pioneered by the Master, Dr Hands. The project stemmed from Dr Hands' previous successful experience in setting up an Arts Festival in Portsmouth.


The school's resources are critical to the success of the project. The Festival uses school facilities such as IT provision, maintenance support, rooms and catering. 

School administrative and staff teaching time is provided and a financial contribution is made to support the education and outreach projects. A small group of school staff form the core Festival team, with a larger group sitting on the Arts Festival committee.


We assess each project at end of Festival. Specific outreach and education projects within the Festival are evaluated by means of meetings and questionnaires and by soliciting feedback from participants, artists and partners. 

A Festival-wide assessment takes place in July, which considers the qualitative and quantitative impact of the Festival as a whole against our aims and objectives.

We encourage audience feedback through social media and a post-festival survey.

The 2015 Festival saw over 100 events take place within two weeks across 20 venues at the school and in the city.

In 2015 the Festival worked with 250 artists, engaged with 2,200 active participants in workshops and tours, and received 16,000 visitors.

Pupil Involvement

2,000 external pupils were involved in 2015, aged 5 to 18. Involvement may take the form of participation in workshops, performances, competitions and exhibitions. Some projects involve young people on one or two occasions, other on an on-going basis over several months.

MCS alumni and prefects perform Front of House duties.


On-going event; education activities take place all year round with the main festival in June-July.