SHARKS surfed among the crowds while a giant skeleton waved to thousands of onlookers – and performers from around the world joined a mile-long parade for one of the biggest ever Cowley Road Carnivals.

The annual event which took over East Oxford this afternoon has been hailed a huge success, with sunshine and temperatures of 28C drawing in massive crowds expected to have reached 50,000.

This year’s parade was themed around ‘icons of art’ and Oxford community groups and schools went all out with everything from Mexican themed dancers inspired by artist Frida Kahlo to a pair of tributes to Headington’s Shark House.

After the procession was over revellers feasted from 90 food stalls selling dishes from around the globe, and enjoyed music on stages spread along the road and its side streets.

Spoken word performances, folk, rock, hip-hop and even a disco in a supermarket car park meant there was something for everyone.

When the heat got too much, many ventured for a moment of calm in one of the many quieter shaded areas such as the Restore garden in Manzil Way, which hosted acoustic and folk performers.

One family who did just that were Jan Rabusic, wife Jarmila and daughters Annette, eight, and Jane, five, who said they came to the carnival every year.

Mr Rabusic said: “The weather’s excellent and I think that’s really helped bring more people out. It’s always packed though, and I think the fact the parade theme changes each year keeps it exciting. There’s also always something new to see or do.”

Rachel Harvey, whose granddaughter Amiyah, seven, was part of the parade with Oxford’s Strawberry Fayre Majorettes, praised organisers Cowley Road Works.

She said: “It’s been a really hot day but it hasn’t sapped spirits and everything has been run really smoothly.”

Chris Bearson was one of around 100 volunteers who helped at the free event. He was out encouraging carnival-goers to donate a £1 to help fund the event, which costs £130,000 to put on each year.

He said: “I’ve been doing it for the last few years and people have been extra generous this year.”

No total has yet been announced but organisers set an ambitious target to raise £20,000.

The carnival was the first since Micaela Tuckwell took over the reigns at Cowley Road Works.

She called the day a ‘terrific success’, adding: “There was glorious weather, a fantastic procession with some of the most amazing costumes and structures.

“The carnival is a huge celebration of our diversity, and groups represented included folk dancers from Jerusalem, as well as the Kurdish, Indonesian, Nepalese, West Papuan and Nigerian communities. And many more were represented in the school, drum and dance groups.”

She said the family area, disco and Global Dance Stage all had “great crowds”.

* See our picture gallery of the day’s action