Tim Hughes talks to guitarist and promoter Osprey about this year's instalment of his freewheeling seven-day, 50-act extravaganza of local music: Oxford City Festival

OSPREY raises his eyes to the heavens and laughs. We are sitting in a secluded corner of Oxford's Cellar club discussing plans for his annual feast of live music, the Oxford City Festival.

"It's hard work mate... but it's coming on a treat and is going to be an absolute blinder!"

It is five years since the popular guitarist and gig promoter – real name Mark O'Brien – set out to stage his own winter festival, showcasing the best of the city's homegrown music scene.

Designed to incubate and nurture new talent and remind gig-goers of the bands, artists and DJs already out there, it became an instant hit – not least with the acts booked to play.

"There are loads of festivals out there but no others focus exclusively on local talent," says Osprey – a native of Teesside with an accent as strong and heavy as Redcar steel. "I wanted to remind people what a creative city this is by bringing them altogether on one bill for seven days of brilliant music."

In terms of genre, the music is as diverse as the city itself – encompassing locally-sourced rock, metal, blues, jazz, dance, punk – and even a pirate band. What else would you expect from a man who is as at home playing a blistering Hendrix-like guitar solo or spinning old skool rave classics at 3am.

"The reason I started it is because, week in, week out, I promote all these bands which we should be celebrating," says the loveable 'Smoggy' (a native of Middlesbrough) who took his avian nickname from the CB radio handle he used while working on a fish farm in the Lake District.

"There's a ridiculous amount of talent – and I mean real talent, not that X Factor rubbish!

"And this is a great time of year to do it."

He goes on: "We started off small," he says. "But then grew massive and I have now reigned it in a bit.

"I created a monster, let it out of the cage but I have now tamed it!"

With More than 50 bands and artists playing at five venues (The Wheatsheaf, Jericho Tavern, The Bullingdon, The Bear and The Cellar) it's an impressive feat – if leaner and meaner than some previous years. At least that gives us a working chance of getting around most of the shows though – despite some serious clashes.

Highlights include The Brixtons, instrumental dance act Pink Diamond Revue, former Candyskin Mark Cope, lively pop-punks Strike One, funked-up indie-reggae band Storyteller, and a night of solo sets by rockers Resolve, indie-rockers Fracture, ambient avant garde indie act Year Of The Kite, punk-rockers Otto, swampy country rockers Deadbeat Apostles, and a night featuring Ady Davey, Markus Shakey Buttler and Osprey himself in the intimate setting of The Bear – Oxford's oldest pub.

A late addition to the bill – and a predicted highpoint – will be a set by live dance music interpretors Audacious – who play rave classics live on traditional instruments.

Another hit will be live favourites Peerless Pirates - a band Osprey describes as a nautical collision of The Smiths and Tenpole Tudor, with laughs.

"Things will go wrong," he says. "They always do and already have. But if I was worried about that I wouldn't start it in the first place. You've just got to get on with it. It's about perseverance!"

And to prove his commitment he is planing a few guest spots with bands, in addition to his headline slot at The Bear.

“The whole idea of the festival is a celebration," he goes on. "A lot of places around the world celebrate their music but we never really have, despite the contribution Oxford bands have made internationally. It's time we did the same.”

The 5th annual Oxford City Festival

  • November 20: Resolve, Rats Eat Rats, King Bolete, Bloodshot @ The Bullingdon
  • November 20: Audacity Live, Fire Gazers, Kiva, Dreamsyndröm @ The Jericho Tavern
  • November 21: Year Of The Kite, Krief, Juniper Nights, Spike Holifield @ The Wheatsheaf
  • November 22: Otto, The Surge, Ghoul, Webs & Marionettes @ The Wheatsheaf Oxford
  • November 22: Peerless Pirates, The Deadbeat Apostles, Spinner Fall, Crystallite @ The Cellar
  • November 22: Osprey, Ady Davey, Markus Shakey Buttler @ The Bear
  • November 23: Pink Diamond Revue, Fracture, The Demoiselles, Khamsina, Ocean Ruins @ The Cellar
  • November 24: Storyteller, Jeramesa, Switch Out, Fuji @ The Wheatsheaf
  • November 25 - from noon: Brixtons, Factory Lights, Cora Pearl, Sprung From Cages, Liama Bite, TMADai. From 5pm: Strike One, Ennor, Neon Teepee, Mogmatic, Real Cool Killers, Mark Cope, Lost Darren @ The Jericho Tavern

Oxford City Festival runs from November 20-26. Check out the festival’s Facebook event page for details. Tickets from wegottickets.com