One hundred years ago, town and gown in Oxford collaborated on perhaps the greatest public spectacle the city had ever seen. The Oxford Historical Pageant of June 1907 involved a team of 3,000 people enacting 16 scenes spanning 1,000 years of the city's history.

The epic was staged before a grandstand by the river, with royal barges and Viking warships, choirs of Franciscan monks, a platform for orchestra - and a bridge purpose-built so that costumed horsemen could gallop on.

The University, at first dubious about the pageant, became seized by its romance. Dons reportedly queued up to swagger on as Roger Bacon or the Earl of Leicester. Ordinary people of Oxford were involved too. Mr Wiblin, a local butcher, was among the trumpeters, and his programme for the event was afterwards found in his desk drawer.

Pencilled notes included the instruction send piccolo player up on to the roof where the nymphs need help.' The grand finalé called for the whole pageant to stream off over the bridge to a favourite hymn, and Mr Wiblin's scribbles include an urgent keep going with O, God our Help.' As director of Oxford Folk Festival, I've learned a bit about mounting a pageant in the city.

Last year, for the first time, we staged a grand street parade through the centre of Oxford, with Morris dancers, marching bands, processional giants, hobby horses, street entertainers, banners and much more.

We were, of course, spared health and safety worries about waterborne warfare and needy nymphs on rooftops, but there was a lot else to get stressed about.

The number of performers wishing to attend was so great that it called for more stewards - and more fluoro jackets which we borrowed at the last minute from another festival. The forecast threatened rain and while the giants (unfinished) never turned up the other participants assembled at Oxford Castle in huge numbers.

"Where are the Oxford Waits? Where are you fools?" I remember calling frenziedly out to my own 17th-century costume band, not noticing that they were in front of me, half hidden by the Hooden Horses from Kent.

Then we were off, winding our way up New Road, New Inn Hall Street and St Michael Street, a great, noisy concertina of costumed performers, ceaselessly expanding and contracting as it lurched towards Cornmarket on Saturday lunchtime. "Keep going with O, God our Help," I might very well have cried that day.

Despite the gloomy forecasts the weather turned out to be glorious and the whole event was a triumph. I take no credit for that, incidentally; it is a tribute to our stewarding team and to the fact that every possible mishap had been foreseen and averted by associate director and health and safety supremo, Sandra Evans.

Ahead of the event, we were given quite a grilling by police and council authorities; Sandra had her risk assessments in place and every fact at her fingertips. In fact, the only moment of doubt seemed to arise through my own, solitary interjection.

"With regard to public order,' I said, we've never had any problems. Ours is very a law-abiding audience: families, morris dancers and so on."

A police official's eyes narrowed.

"Morris dancers?' he said. My son's a morris dancer. You call that law-abiding?"

He was joking - I think.

Ever-expanding and ever more colourful, Oxford Folk Festival is becoming a fixture in the city's calendar of events. Now in our fourth year our 2007 celebration is scheduled for the weekend before Easter, Friday, March 30 to Sunday, April 1.

The festival is spreading to new venues, with workshops at Jesus College, a French Night at the Jacqueline du Pré Building, as well as ceilidhs at the Emperor Ballroom in Cowley, and at Oxford Brookes.

The Town Hall nonetheless remains the centre of activities; here on Friday night you can revel in the all-singing, all-strumming Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain who believe that every music genre is available for reinterpretation - as long as it is played on the ukulele.

On Saturday come prepared to dance with Salsa Celtica, an amazing 11-piece fusion band from Scotland acclaimed by the Sunday Times for their collision of South American exuberance and British folk roots.' Sunday sees Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers at the Town Hall, fronted by one of the great singers and fiddle-players of the present day. Eliza grew up living and breathing the English tradition while her band includes Oxford's own dynamic duo, Jon Spiers and John Boden.

Our festival has always celebrated its English roots. This year's line-up also includes squeezebox maestro John Kirkpatrick, Oxfordshire's Magpie Lane and the inimitable Norfolk entertainer, Sid Kipper, who presents his Vaughan Williams Stole My Folk Song - all you ever wanted to ask about folk music but were afraid to know.

You can expect a more Celtic ambience from twin legends John Renbourn and Robin Williamson. John burst onto the scene in 1965, to be swiftly acclaimed as master of fingerstyle guitar, both as solo artist and as a founder member of Pentangle. Robin was a founder in the sixties of the Incredible String Band, and his bardic skills have since made him a key figure in the storytelling revival.

The ancient rootstock of traditional music is meanwhile evoked by the enchanting Daughters of Elvin, a stunningly masked and costumed troupe who mix music, dance and theatre in their show.

Evoking the spirit of Medieval Europe, they give extraordinary displays of colour, movement and sound, their imagery inspired by medieval paintings, carvings and literature.

And the festival is not just about concerts. There will be daytime dance displays at Oxford Castle over the Saturday and Sunday, with traders' stalls and children's crafts at the new Education Centre.

Opened by Her Majesty the Queen only last year, the Castle is fast becoming the key venue for festive celebrations in the city and its many piazzas, overlooked by historic St George's Tower, provide a perfect setting for events.

The castle is the starting point for the grand street parade. On Saturday 31st March, at 11 am, participants are scheduled to assemble in its courtyards whence the procession will set out on its mission to flood Cornmarket Street with music and dance. At noon, by our newly established ritual, a delegation will then proceed from Carfax Tower to the steps of the Town Hall, to open the Saturday concerts there.

We can of course, offer no guarantees about the weather, and our health and safety application has yet to be accepted. Another official meeting looms very shortly - and this time, I think, I will keep quiet about the morris dancers.

Weekend, day and individual concert tickets are available from Tickets Oxford at the Oxford Playhouse tel 01865 305305 online