Reggae and ska DJ and dapper Disco Shed impresario Count Skylarkin' - aka Aidan Larkin - says we should be celebrating Christmas Eve in traditional Oxford style... with reggae!

Cowley Road has hosted a reggae show on Christmas Eve on each of the last 24 years.

Legend has it that the newly-installed general manager Shanks had to think on his feet to fill the diary of Nick Moorbath's newly-opened Zodiac, and booked the bands Mackating and Dubwiser at the last minute to play on Xmas Eve 1995.

The evening proved such a success that the tradition continued throughout the next decade, with Makating being joined by DJs from Oxford's exceptional roster of selectors - among them Danny Whittaker, Nico Fuller, Gary Constant, Natty Mark, Dylan Davies, Barney Pree, Johnny Glasgow and his brother Tyrone.

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At the heart of everything was David Norland and his brother Daniel - rhythm section with Mackating and rebel soundsystem operators with Desta*Nation.

In 2008 the reins of Reggae Christmas got passed down to me.

I remain somewhat in awe of it. I don't imagine there's anything quite like it anywhere else.

Oxford goes to sleep at Christmas. If you look at the front doors of all the (independent) shops you'll find that pretty soon they're gonna be shut until some time in January.

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Then, on Christmas Eve - almost out of nowhere - 500 or so people refuse that last mince pie, put their coats on and brave the elements for one special dance before the turkey goes in the oven.

Reggae Christmas devotees are an exceptionally loyal bunch. The class of 95 are mostly all still there - only now they bring their grown-up kids.

For those that have flown the nest, it's a high school reunion. For everyone in attendance, it's a seasonal reminder of what a unique and special community East Oxford can be.

Running it is a huge honour. Programming it requires a bit of graft! Persuading a top act to trek to Oxford for a late gig on Xmas Eve requires a special kind of blagger, an enormous amount of goodwill and (if I'm being honest) a financial leap of faith.

But once a band have played Reggae Christmas, they always want to come back again and again. Eva Lazarus and Dub Mafia have done it, The Drop have done it. Jamaican legends such as Macka B and Susan Cadogan have lit up the stage. Last year Wrongtom and the Ragga Twins shut it down!

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But if there's one band that have become almost as synonymous with Reggae Xmas as DestaNation and Mackating, it's this year's headliners - Laid Blak.

Oxford Mail:

Bristol's finest have properly embraced Oxford's maddest festive tradition and have become perennial favourites - topping the OX4 Reggae Christmas tree on numerous occasions in the past decade.

Everyone loves Laid Blak. They're great players and have got tunes galore, but most of all they're real. They're reggae people, soundsystem people, community people. They've got the same rebel streak as the late David Norland and Slimma Golding.

All for one and one for all. That's why I'm so thrilled to have them returning to headline The Bullingdon this year. Thanks for reading.

Hope to see you there.

Oxford Mail: