Rock guitarist, DJ, gig promoter and all-round nice guy, Mark ‘Osprey’ O’Brien is a man on a mission – to big-up the best of Oxford’s new music.

“There are more great bands in some individual Oxford streets than there are in the whole of most towns this size,” he laughs in his warm Teesside twang.

“All I want to do is make more people aware of them. Everybody knows the big names who have come out of this city, but there are new bands and artists appearing every week. We should be shouting about that.”

It’s that love of new music which has inspired Osprey to organise one of the musical highlights of the year – the Oxford City Festival. The event, which got underway last week, sees more than 80 bands and artists playing six venues across the city – the O2 Academy, The Bullingdon, Half Moon, Wheatsheaf, The Cellar and Jericho Tavern.

“It is knackering mate, but it’s worthwhile,” he laughs. “And this year’s is turning out to be a real treat.”

This is the sixth time Osprey – who took his avian nickname from the CB radio handle he used while working on a fish farm in the Lake District – has spent the autumn putting on a hometown music festival to showcase 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 in its first year – not least with the acts booked to play.

“There are lots of other festivals but none of them focus exclusively on local talent,” says the chirpy ‘Smoggy’ (a native of Middlesbrough) – who performs as a guitarist in his own band and also has a raucous history as an acid house and rave DJ.

“I also like the idea of spreading it over two weeks instead of just squeezing everything into one day like some events. And because it is spread across the whole city – from Cowley Road, through St Clement’s to the city centre and out to Jericho – it is a truly Oxford-wide festival.”

With the demise of Ronan Munro’s much-missed, multi-venue Oxford Punt new music event, Osprey’s festival is all the more important.

He adds: “Lots of towns are losing their music scenes and I think it’s important to celebrate what we have – both in the city and shire. And it’s good to do that in one block at the end of the year.”

A glance at the line-up reveals a host of unfamiliar names.

“We have a lot of brand new bands and that’s great,” he says. “What would be the point of putting on gigs at a festival like this by bands that everybody already knows when there are so many great ones coming up?”

Highlights include a night of electronica at The Cellar tonight, featuring Means Of Production, Octavia Freud, Mojave and Steevo Nuissier.

“Means of Production are a great band!” says Osprey. “The first time I heard them I felt like I was back in The Haçienda; they are that good. It’s time we had some good new electronica in Oxford, and this lot sound like Joey Beltram smashing into Kraftwerk.”

Also tipped are tomorrow’s shows by Fracture, Beard Of Destiny, Chalk and London Graffiti at The Wheatsheaf.

“Beard of Destiny are one of the better-known bands,” he says. “They play swampy Delta blues with a twist and lots of slide guitar – and you can dance to it. Fracture play high-octane rock, Chalk are melodic with a bit of U2 about them and London Graffiti are folkie with a rock edge. It’s going to be a great night.

“And then there’s the after-party at the Half Moon, which is going to be epic!”

“We have more great music this year than you can shake a stick at... so come along and support it.”

Oxford Mail:

Festival organiser Osprey

Whats on and when...

With another week to go, Osprey’s Oxford City Festival offers the best in new rock, blues, metal, indie, folk and electronica across six venues.

Go to for tickets. Some events are free to enter.

  • A night of Electronica featuring Means Of Production / Octavia Freud / Mojave/ Steevo Nuissier – The Cellar, Frewin Court, Oxford, tonight, Nov 22, 6.45pm
  • Fracture / Beard Of Destiny / Chalk /London Graffiti –The Wheatsheaf, High Street, Oxford, tomorrow 7.30pm
  • ChurchOfTheHeavy featuring: K-Lacura / YoreLastRites/ DirtyBizzness / Mamza – The Cellar, Frewin Court, tomorrow, Nov 23, 6.45pm
  • La Phooka / Superloose / Mark Bosley Band / Purple – The Half Moon, St Clement’s, Oxford, Saturday, Nov 24 – free entry
  • Still Pigeon / Lucy Mair / Khamsina/ Rich Rainford / Good Canary – The Cellar, Frewin Court, Oxford, Tuesday, Nov 27, 6.45pm
  • Funnel Music Tour featuring Starbelly / Make Friends / Fuji / Daze – The Wheatsheaf, High Street, Tuesday, Nov 27, 7.30pm
  • Hollis Lomax / Jonny Race / Rubba Band / Leigh & Liam – The Cellar, Frewin Court, Wednesday, Nov 28, 6.45pm
  • Alboa / Puppet Mechanic / Factory Lights / Dolly Mavies – The Cellar, Frewin Court, Thursday, Nov 29, 6.45pm
  • Franklins Tower / Fire Gazer / Mark Atherton & Friends – The Half Moon, St Clement’s, Thursday, Nov 29, 7pm – free entry
  • OttO / Molly Karloff / Port Erin / The Foliants / The Wafarers / First Reserves – O2 Academy Oxford, Cowley Road, Thursday, Nov 29, 6pm
  • Restructure / The Pink Diamond Revue Mogmatic – The Wheatsheaf, High Street, Friday, Nov 30, 7.30pm
  • OCF after party with Osprey and The Overload – The Half Moon, St Clement’s, Friday, Nov 30, 8pm