HUNDREDS of musicians and performers transformed the centre of Oxford into a colourful festival of traditional music and dance for the city’s Folk Weekend.

Bands, artists and Morris dance sides from around the country filed streets, churches and museums with music for the event, which drew to a close last night.

Organisers hailed the three-day festival as the biggest ever, with thousands of people joining the fun.

They packed out venues for a programme of concerts and workshops, and watched dance displays in Broad Street, Alfred Street, Frideswide and Bonn Squares, and in front of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers museums.

The event was headlined by singer-songwriter Martin Carthy, Emily Portman, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman.

Folk Weekend Oxford director Cat Kelly composed a piece of music – a spring carol – especially for the event.

Saturday morning’s rain failed to dampen spirits with 200 people joining the festival opening ceremony and dancing around the city.

Ms Kelly, from Stanton Harcourt, near Witney, said: "This has been our best year yet.

"We sold out all of Saturday night’s events – with 800 people joining the performances that night alone.

"There were also informal sessions in pubs – and even an impromptu dance in Bonn Square at a quarter to one in the morning!"

Among the dancers were the Hook Eagle Morris side from Hook in Hampshire.

The dancers perform a Border Morris style, with blacked up faces – a tradition dating back to the days when dancing was banned by local squires, forcing men to hide their identity for performances.

David Bown, 46, from Hook, Hampshire, joined the dancers in front of the Sheldonian Theatre on Saturday afternoon, watched by his wife Jenny and two-year-old son Guy.

"He said: "It is great. What is there not to like?

"Guy also loves it – though he is a bit upset no one will give him a big stick."

Seventeen year-old clog dancers Harriet Kempson, from Brackley and Maria Marshal from Windsor, performed in Broad Street under the name Fire Clog.

Miss Kempson said: "We have danced all over the place with different Morris sides and love it in Oxford. "There’s a lovely atmosphere and it has been great to meet the other teams.

"We are used to dancing in the rain – though it was great when we brought the sun out."

Solly Pires was dancing outside The Bear pub in Alfred Street with Bedford’s Hemlock Morris – whose dancers sport elaborate painted patterns on their faces.

She said: "We love the Folk Weekend and come every year. It’s been great fun."

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Spring dance: Solly Pires of Hemlock Morris

Fellow dancer Lisa King added: "It’s a nice place to dance in. Oxford is a beautiful city with appreciative audiences - and the beer is good!"

More traditional were the all-woman Mister Wilkins’ Shilling clog dancing side, who also performed in Broad Street.

Karen Coates, from Bath, said: "We danced in the rain and the sun – it takes more than the weather to put us off, though it did get a bit slippery wearing clogs - it is a lovely place to dance."

Generations: David Bown and son Guy

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