We all love a good party – a chance to listen to great music sing and generally have a good time. But when that also involves backing a worthwhile cause, we are extra keen to get our dancing shoes on.

With a line-up featuring new folk, electronic wizardry and New Orleans-style brass, Witney’s Asylum Sounds Festival is a truly international celebration of sound with a global conscience. Funds raised from the day of music, organised by Witney Refugee Action for next Saturday, will help support six Syrian families living in the town under a refugee resettlement scheme.

Proceeds will also go towards supporting the venue itself – Witney’s Rock Barn, which is under threat of demolition to make way for housing.

“It’s a lovely event in which lots of people get involved,” says promoter says Autumn Neagle, who lives in the town.

“It’s great to be back for a third year with our most ambitious line up yet “We have a massed street band, choirs and some of Oxfordshire’s finest acts and freshest young talent playing just about every instrument under the sun – and we’re squeezing them all in under one Rock Barn roof!”

Acts include west Oxfordshire’s Premium Leisure (Chris Barker’s mini supergroup, who are about to head off on tour with Gaz Coombes and Willie J Healey), Oxford keys and guitar duo Candy Says, Mardi Gras-style street parade band Horns of Plenty, 12-piece Bampton folk-troupe The Beamdunes and the Voicebox choir – who perform everything from choral classics, gospel and musical theatre to barbershop, folk and early music.

They will be joined by Gypsy ska duo Cigani Knees Up, Alex Train’s Quartermelon, Roguey Roads (Oxford brothers Rhys and Gus Warriner), young emerging Witney act New Depth, indie-punk-rockers The Dollymops, Witney performance poet and playwright Owen Collins, brilliant sonic oddball Moogieman, DJs from the Witney Soul Club, Funk Soul Stu, indie tune spinner Pricey and disco diva Sal Love – who between them will keep things bouncing until midnight.

Visiting musicians are also invited to come along and play at the MuzoAkademy Busk Stop.

“The moment we announced the date offers from bands and artists started pouring in,” says Autumn.

“All the musicians are playing for free and we’re hugely grateful for their support – it’s going to be brilliant fun. I’m super excited about the new Busk Stop too. People can grab their instrument and ‘rock up and play’ “Come on Witney, we’re going ‘out out!’”

After hosting previous fundraisers in aid of others, it is perhaps ironic that it is the Rock Barn itself which is now also in need of support.

Earlier this year Keble Homes submitted a revised planning application to demolish the much-loved venue and build a block of six apartments.

The building is owned by Witney town and West Oxfordshire district councillor David Harvey, who could sell the site to the property company if the application is approved by the district council.

He has previously said the barn would make way for housing and urged campaigners to focus efforts on finding a new home.

However, supporters of the grassroots performance space hope to gain permission to become an Asset of Community Value – giving them six months to raise the funds before Mr Harvey can sell.

“The Rock Barn is a fantastic community hub at the centre of Witney’s musical heartbeat,” says Autumn.

“People are unhappy about it being sold off to a private developer for flats.

“It’s in a great location on the High Street , lots of young people go along and we want it to remain there. Sadly though it could be one of the last events there.”

This year’s Asylum Sounds will be more diverse than ever and will see some of the Syrian families taking an active part enjoying the chance to perform and thank volunteers – including a performance by Syrian poet Muradi Bakir.  Autumn says: “The Syrian families came last year and got involved which was nice and this year are doing more – with poetry and Syrian food and tea while two of the children will perform on stage.”

The all-dayer has the feel of a family fiesta from 1-5pm with arts and crafts, face-painting, hands on activities from knitting to ribbon dancing and drum making.

Witney’s Warm Welcome blanket, made up of a patchwork of messages created by supporters last year, will also go on show, fresh from its trip to Parliament, yesterday.

Festival-goers can also create their own Rock Barn T-shirt, or join David Ranson as he paints a mural in the venue.

There will be more art from Stephen Nulty, speakers from Close Campsfield, and Witney Refugee Action group and volunteers from Oxfam.

As well as the Middle Eastern delights there will be a veggie curry stall and a bar with local craft beers and bespoke Asylum Sounds cocktails.

The latter, insists Autumn, are “legendary”. “They are unforgettable,” she says, “particularly the next day!”

She adds: “There’s a great community spirit in Witney and a really strong music scene which is gaining momentum.

“It’s great to see people come together like this.

“The only thing is, there are so many bands and artists, I don’t know how we’re going to fit them all in.”

Nicola Milner, of Witney Refugee Action group, said: “We are excited to be hosting our third Asylum Sounds.

“We received so much positive feedback in previous years that we feel it’s right to continue seeing out Witney’s festival season in style.

“We’re always heartened to see so much support and interest in the asylum and refugee cause from people across our community, and we will be eternally grateful to the Rock Barn for making this endeavour a possibility!”

Juju and Ben of Candy Says, said: “Live music is at its best when it’s bringing people together to do some good, so we’re proud to join a great line-up of local bands at Asylum Sounds, supporting the work of Witney Refugee Action group and raising funds and awareness for refugees.”

  •  Asylum Sounds takes place at the Rock Barn, High Street, Witney on Saturday, September 15 from 1pm-11.30pm.
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