HAVING survived another challenging year, we owe ourselves a moment of celebration as a new year dawns.

After fears of a New Year lockdown failed to materialise, we at last have the ideal opportunity to get out and give ourselves the party we so deserve. And for lovers of good time tunes, there is really only one place to go this New Year’s Eve – The Bullingdon in Cowley Road.

Having been forced to call off his much-loved traditional Christmas Eve reggae night, Oxford’s dapper DJ Count Skylarkin is back in action on New Year’s Eve with an energetic feelgood set of tunes – the perfect way to see out this tired old year – and welcome in what has to be a fabulous new one.

“New Year’s Eve is always a mad one,” says the sartorially slick selector who is embarking on a 17 hour stint of DJing over two days.

“I generally spend midnight on a mad motorway dash between cities, getting from one gig to the next,” he says. “But I try to wangle it so that I wind up playing the last set at The Bullingdon. I always see so many familiar faces there, and it’s staggering distance from home!”

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Getting out of his shed: Count Skylarkin. Picture by Tim Hughes

A favourite fixture at the country’s finest clubs, carnivals and festivals, Count Skylarkin – real name Aidan Larkin – is famed for his legendary DJ sets – getting crowds moving with an infectious mix of reggae, ska and offbeat floor fillers.

Close to home, his sets at Cowley Road Carnival and his Disco Shed sessions – which see him spinning vinyl from a souped-up mobile garden shed kitted out with decks, speakers and lights – have earned him an army of fans. So discerning dancers are assured a lively time at tomorrow’s hometown party.

“I make good things happen!” he grins. “There’s no better feeling for me than a good job well done.

“I had disappointing New Year’s Eve nights out when I was younger, and New Year’s Day was always a write-off – in Oxford anyway. There was never anything to do.

“Hopefully I can make that better for people. I love seeing people getting together, celebrating together, recovering together. I’ve missed it at times over the past two years.”

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Count-down for New Year. Picture by Guy Henstock

The Count follows up his nocturnal manoeuvres with a New Year’s Day set at the Jolly Postboys in Florence Park.

“I’ll try to get my head down for a couple of hours before I head to the Jolly Postboys to play an all-dayer of classic Jamaican rocksteady.

“I’ll play a seven or eight hour set there, all off vinyl. People think I’m crazy but it’s always a pleasure and never a chore. I love my job.

“And I’ll sleep in January!”

While famed for his exemplary reggae and ska playlists, his New Year’s Eve set promises to be a more eclectic night of bangers. I probably won’t even end up playing much reggae on New Year’s Eve,” he says. “I tend to go all over the place, playing just proper party bangers. So expect deep disco, chunky hip hop and steezy garage. Maybe I’ll also throw in a load of dancehall if the mood takes me.

“If you’re up for having a good time then you will. On New Year’s Day it’ll be vintage Caribbean vinyl all the way. Soothe the head, stir the soul. You might think that’s not what you want, but you’ll find out it’s exactly what you need.”

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Things can only get better: Count Skylarkin

And with some people still nervous about the virus, he is quick to assure clubbers that it is safe to go out. The venue strictly checks jab status and is Covid secure.

“Personally I spent Christmas in Omicron-isolation, so I’ll be spreading antibodies as well as vibes,” he says.

The night follows a mixed year for the DJ. “I’ve been broke, a bad home-schooler and I lost my dad... but I’ve also had great people around me to get me through. My kids continually blow me away with their thoughtfulness and empathy and I was able to dodge Covid-19-restrictions and be with my father at the end.

“Since venues and festivals reopened I’ve been really, really busy. There were times during lockdown where I forgot who I was a bit. It’s been emotional and elevating to find that other people still remember you, even when you don’t.”

And as for the Government... best not mention it. “I think they’ve played an absolute blinder,” he jokes. “They’ve gotten richer, their mates have gotten richer and they’ve partied like it’s Covid99.”

He is relieved, however, after what seemed a relentless series of lockdowns and restrictions to finally get back out there to do his thing.

“I’ve enjoyed it all,” he says. “From the first few seated, socially distanced, tentative twilight evenings outside Tap Social to tearing it up all across the country. There have been so many new experiences as well as reigniting old ones.

“I got to interview Don Letts for his book launch at Wilderness [near Charlbury] and have my kids honking horns and blowing bubbles either side of me while it was popping off in the Caravanserai at Camp Bestival.

“I don’t know what 2022 might bring, but I’ll make the most of it, that’s for sure.”

And what is going to be the biggest banger in his box this NYE?

“It has to be I Will Survive (Coronavirus) by Myki Tuff,” he laughs.

Skylarkin & Friends play The Bullingdon, Oxford, tomorrow. Contact the venue for tickets