Vez Hoper tells Tim Hughes why a riverside pub is the place to be this Saturday for a day of creative music and art with an eccentric twist

Vez Hoper is fizzing with excitement. After months of planning, it is time for one of the highlights of Oxford’s musical summer – the Irregular Folks Summer Sessions.

“It’s going to be amazing!” says the East Oxford music promoter, barely concealing her delight. “We have got an amazing line-up and a new home. It is all very exciting!”

If ever a festival deserved its name, it is Irregular Folks. Named in honour of the people who perform and support it – ‘the folks’ – rather than a genre of music, it is a freewheeling, slightly oddball, all-day mash-up of quirky and intelligent music, with poetry and comedy.

But more than that it is a representation of a philosophy; an ethos.

“It’s about people doing things a bit differently,” says Vez. “It’s a celebration of individuality.

“I’m someone who doesn’t like rules. I adore creativity and uniqueness. And when something like this comes together, it’s the best job in the world.

“It’s not financially-driven, so I get to put some things on that are incredible but maybe not hugely famous. And while there might be some folk, it is not a folk session. It’s about creative people in a beautiful setting.

“The only reason there’s no cool thrash metal band is because it doesn’t really fit in with the venue. There’s more of a laid back summer vibe.”

After previous outings at The Cellar, The Perch, in Binsey, and south Oxford’s Hogacre Common, this year’s session – the fifth – takes place at the scenic Victoria Arms, in Old Marston, on Saturday.

“I am so grateful to landlady Ruthie Bowers, who has so many ideas and has been so supportive,” says Vez. “She is even putting on fireworks at the end!”

And the line-up promises to be equally sparky.

“It’s a mix of familiar faces and artists who have never played Irregular Folks before,” says Vez, who resists the idea of headliners, instead giving all acts equal billing.

They include Yorkston Thorne Khan – a supergroup of alt folk artist James Yorkston, Lamb’s jazzy double bassist John Thorne vocalist and and classical Indian serengi (string instrument) player Suhail Yusef.

Also playing are Laura J Martin, whose mix of flute, samples, live instruments and quirky vocals create what Vez describes as “an awesome Grimm’s fairy tale-like journey that’s been hijacked by all the craziest characters from Where the Wild Things Are.”

Then there’s Rozi Plain’s mind-expanding, multi-instrumental indie-pop alt-folk, and, a familiar face to Oxford gig-goers, Oly Ralfe – of Ralfe Band fame – who plays music from his hugely acclaimed instrumental piano album.

There is interesting fare too from Jack Cheshire and his band, who make their Oxford debut with a mix of psychedelic indie and jazz topped with his emotive and melodic vocals.

“There’s melody explored in ways we’ve never experienced before and they’re so satisfying each time as you get swept up into each twist and turn,” says Vez.

“The rest of the band also stand out with their obviously jazz influenced skills. We’re so excited to be providing them their debut appearance in Oxford they will be a total delight for everyone to watch. We just know this won’t be the last time we see them here.”

Also up are the eccentric Dead Rat Orchestra, who describe themselves as “adventurers adrift in a sea of sound and possibility, plucking textures and melodies to craft their idiosyncratic vision of what music and performance can be.”

There’s more eclectic music from Hannah Bruce, of whom Vez says, poetically: “She fuses electronic sounds with dusky solo guitar soundscapes and sings as if a dark and sultry Cat Power has melded in with PJ Harvey from a midnight storybook.”

“We are very honoured to be able to have Hannah play as part of much anticipated re-emergence into the Oxford music scene.The night will be rounded off with Bella Union electronic act Go Dark – aka Crash and collaborator Doseone – one third of West Coast abstract hip-hop outfit cLOUDDEAD.

“They are a gender-bending, synth-thrashing synth, cutting-edge kick-drum-heavy electronic music duo from Oakland, California,” says Vez. “Their utterly unique, infectious sound will take you in to a highly charged, exhilarating electronic computer game-like crazy mission. You’ll never be the same again.”

On top of the music there is a Mini Movie Island, with short films – many of them amusing – screened on an actual island in the River Cherwell, and an area for quirky, challenging and risque talks and lectures called The Odditorium.

The latter is the brainchild of David Bramwell, and is a regular feature at various outdoor events, including Wilderness. Talks on Saturday include Animal Vaginas by Jules Howard, Werewolf Erotica by Tilly Gregory, The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Super Masochist by Dr Hester, Big Willies by Dr Ali Goode, Cross-Dressing Dandy Highwaymen by John Higgs and Bramwell’s own talk In Search of the Biggest Tongue in Tunisia.

The event is hosted by comedian Paul Foot. “We cannot believe how lucky we are to be able to have one of, if not THE best comedian out there right now hosting our bonkers concoction of a day,” says Vez. “He is the comedic equivalent to our dream band booking. There’s nothing out of bounds with him.”

The adult-only programme is a result of Vez’s contacts in the music industry, and a generous grant from the Arts Council, which allows her to charge just £15 (£20 on the gate).

“In my job working for a record label and a music video showcase I’ve come across so many creative people and am driven by their creativity,” she says. “Now I want to do something based on my own rules – a celebration of stuff! It’s not driven by how many people they can bring but on their talent.”

So if, let’s say, Ed Sheeran came knocking, would she offer him a slot?

“No. His music doesn’t excite me, interest me or make me happy about being alive in this world. And we all need inspiration.”

Included in the entry ticket is a copy of the programme, a work of art in itself, illustrated by talented Cowley artist Sarah Hoyle. “Sarah is as much a part of the line-up as the bands and speakers,” says Vez. “She’s a big part of it all.”

Those with an artistic urge can try their own hand at creating their own masterpiece in a Drunken Drawing session, hosted by Simon Mandaro, who runs similar events at the White Rabbit pub in central Oxford. There is also a brilliantly-named Pastels at Dawn draw-off.

Says Vez: “It’s all about celebrating things which are fun, interesting, creative and off kilter!”

  • The Irregular Folks Summer Session is at
  • The Victoria Arms, Old Marston, Oxford on Saturday. Go to