Rob da Bank is a happy man. The fun-loving DJ, promoter and the driving force behind Oxford’s Common People festival has released another stellar line-up and is looking forward to the best Spring Bank Holiday weekend bash yet.

Oxford indie-rock band Ride will headline the Sunday line-up in South Park, jointly topping the bill with James for a day of indie-rock.

That will follow a disco-themed Saturday, with The Jacksons topping the bill in the shadow of the world’s largest disco ball, which will be suspended over the park, with another record breaker, the world’s biggest bouncy castle.

“It’s a great bill and I’m really happy with it,” Rob grins.

“We have spent more money on talent than any other year and that shows in the depth of the line-up.”

Since being launched three years ago by the team behind the award-winning Bestival and Camp Bestival events in Dorset, Common People has established itself as a highlight of the city’s cultural calendar and the first big event of the festival season – putting on Duran Duran and Primal Scream for its inaugural event and Pete Tong and Sean Paul last year.

Other acts to play the third instalment of the two-day event, on May 26 and 27, include Prince’s New Power Generation, Sparks, Boney M, The Cuban Brothers, Aswad, Jungle Brothers and Hak Baker on Saturday, and Maximo Park, The Sherlocks, Honeyblood, Low Island, Cut Capers, Chainska Brassika and Elvana – an Elvis fronted Nirvana tribute band on the Sunday. The second day will also feature a set by The London African Gospel Choir who will perform songs from Paul Simon’s Graceland.

With more names to be revealed, Rob says he is already delighted at how the line up is stacking up.

“This year we wanted to redraw the lines between what Common People has become and what we want it to be,” he says. “We want to create fun, family days out but with lots of other experiences too.”

“Last year was a little bit muddled between people coming for dance and electronic acts and people coming for the experience. The feedback from people in Oxford was that it was too confusing and people wanted to know what they were getting.

“This time we have a line-up which is easy to navigate. If you love guitar music, Sunday is for you, and if you like disco Saturday is made for you.

“Change is always controversial and hard but we needed to redraw the balance.”

As with previous years, there’s an array of local talent playing on a stage hosted by Oxford’s Nightshift music mag.

Rob says: “There’s a really strong line-up of Oxford bands, who are not just ‘local bands’ but great in their own right.”

They include Deadbeat Apostles, Burt Cope, Back For Good, Candy Says, Tiger Mendoza, The August List and a set by Inner Peace Records on the Saturday. Sunday sees Brickwork Lizards, Em Williams, James Weston, The Great Western Tears, Drore, Msry, Lucy Leave and sets by Dancin’ Oxford and the Young Women’s Music Project.

A smaller carnival stage will feature General Levy, Craig Charles, Fred V & Grafix on Saturday and DJs from Oxford’s Simple club nights on the Sunday – including Heidi, Haai, Em Williams, James Weston, Ebenezer, Rodney P & Skitz.

Also returning will be Count Skylarkin and Peepshow Paddy’s popular Disco Shed – a DJ booth in a real garden shed – complete with hanging baskets and gnomes.

Rob will spend the weekend between South Park and its sister festival in Southampton.

So what is he most looking forward to? “All of it,” he laughs, though admits to having his heart set on a handful of big names. “The Jacksons and New Power Generation, who will be playing Prince’s biggest hits, are going to be amazing,” he says.

“So will the indie double-bill of Ride and James. People have been shouting out for Ride... including you!” he laughs.

“Ride are a legendary band and I’ve been a huge fan since I was 16. It’s fantastic they are playing, and I hope it’s going to be a good one.”

He adds: “I accept that at first glance it may not be everyone’s line-up of choice, but if you look at it again, it’s amazing – and there are a lot of things still to come, and it’s all for £30 a day. I mean, what else are you going to do?”

He said Oxford had a particular ‘vibe’ which had prompted some changes.

“The Oxford crowd like to chill out by day and get a bit fruitier at night,” he says. “In Southampton they party hard all day, but in Oxford you are more laid back, so we are providing more areas to chill out.

“We are always looking at ways to improve shows and make it a premium offering whether you are with the family or not.

“It’s not a rave or electronic dance music event, it’s a festival for 30, 40 and 50-somethings. I’ve seen a slight backlash from 20 year-olds for not booking the likes of Sean Paul again, but, to be honest, that’s not the route we are going down from now on.

“We need a show everyone can come to, and that’s not going to work if some people are coming to do their thing and others want something completely different.”

And, he says, Common People is here to stay. “We love South Park a lot and it’s become one of our favourite places to throw a party. It’s our third year and we are proud to be there, and pleased Oxford has embraced us.

“We are not doing this for the money. We have always said to the people of Oxford that it’s a festival for you, come and support us. If they don’t, we won’t be back. We are just here to bring some fun!”

Ride – Mark Gardener, Laurence ‘Loz’ Colbert, Andy Bell and Steve Queralt were one of the most influential bands of the 90s. Last year they released their first album for two decades, Weather Diaries, launching it with a show at Oxford’s New Theatre.

Their reunion is one of the greatest comebacks in rock history.

Mark Gardener says: “I’m really happy that Ride will play Common People in the same park that Andy and I used to bunk off in our Cheney School days and dare to dream about being in a band together one day!

“We’ve been wanting to play Common People since the first one but until this year the timing has not worked for us.

“Rob da Bank is a top man and friend and his festivals are always great. After many festival shows around the world, along with our New Theatre show last year which I loved, it’s definitely time to bring it all back home and play to the Oxford pirates again!”

  • Common People Oxford, South Park
  • May 26-27.
  • Tickets are £57.50 for an adult weekend or £30 for an adult day ticket.
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