Cowley Road Carnival – the county’s biggest free public event – is the latest casualty of the coronavirus shutdown.

The community event, which should have been held on July 5, was called off last night for the protection of participants and the wider community.

However, organisers are hoping to keep alive the spirit of the annual celebration, which brings together music-lovers, revellers, families, traders, community groups and hundreds of school children. The carnival is among the largest of its kind in the country, second only in the South East, to Notting Hill Carnival.

Pax Nindi, Trustee of Cowley Road Works, the charity which organises the Carnival said: “With the health of the community as our top priority it is with a heavy heart that the board of trustees has decided that we need to cancel the carnival for 2020.

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“To keep spirits up over the coming months, Cowley Road Works hopes to be able to offer carnival pop ups which can be enjoyed from a safe distance, to provide much-needed carnival colour for us all.

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“Keep your eyes peeled for lanterns in windows, yarn bombing in the park and other surprises that bring a smile from a distance.”

Clare O’Hara, Director of Cowley Road Works, said: “We know that what the community needs now more than ever is a bit of the carnival spirit in our everyday lives, so we are putting plans in place to bring surprises, joy and togetherness into the lives of our local community.”

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She said entertainment would go online, adding: “With support from the University of Oxford, local councillors, and our fantastic headline sponsors Oxford Business Park, we are taking our schools projects online.

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“We’re currently working with our wonderful carnival artists, with the Museum of Natural History and experts from the University in Zoology and Earth Sciences, to create online resources for families to engage in some learning and fun and crafty activities that bring our Mother Earth theme to life. As soon as they have been developed, these will be made available widely through schools and from our website.

“We are also thinking of isolated older people and all those who are unable to leave their homes, and wherever we can, we will redeploy the time we have left with our team and resources to volunteer and support the community.

“Above all, we are grateful to our supporters and especially to Oxford City Council. It is thanks to the council’s invaluable support that carnival will live to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

And she hoped for an extra special event next year.

She said: “The main thing is to send everyone our love and best wishes to stay well by following advice from the Government and health professionals.

“We hope that the situation will improve before too long, and that we will be back better than ever with carnival in July 2021.”