The Cowley Road Carnival has been cancelled after fundraising efforts failed to raise the £20,000 shortfall in funding.

The carnival, which is Oxfordshire’s biggest public free event, has not taken place for three years but usually the event sees up to 50,000 people filling the streets of East Oxford for a colourful procession, live music on multiple stages and DJ performances.

After Covid lockdowns prevented the carnival going ahead in the past, it was hoped the carnival would return this year with a theme of ‘Our Nature Our Future’.

However, at the start of this week the chairman of the carnival, Aidan Larkin, warned funds were needed desperately and he appealed to the public to help pull off “one of the most magical events Oxford has seen for years”.

Despite the carnival’s organisers, the charity Cowley Road Works, setting up a Just Giving Page to help raise the needed £20,000, not enough money has come in and last night it was decided that the event will not go ahead as planned on Sunday, July 9.

As of June 2, the £2,329 had been raised through donations from the public but this is far short of the funds need to fill the hole in the budget.

In a joint statement, the Cowley Road Carnival said it was with "deep regret" that a decision had been made to cancel the carnival due to "several significant challenges". 

Reacting to the news of the carnival’s cancellation, city councillor Ajaz Rehman, cabinet member for inclusive communities, said he knew how “disappointed” people would be but said the council was ready to support efforts to host the event again next year.

Mr Rehman said: “We’re very sad to hear that Cowley Road Carnival won’t be taking place this year.

“We have provided a three-year grant to the organisers Cowley Road Works, which continues till 2025, and we’ve been working with them since early this year to try to support their funding needs to organise Carnival 2023.

“It’s a tough time for all voluntary organisations to raise money, and we understand the funding rejection from the Arts Council had a significant impact on plans.”

Mr Rehman said the council had encouraged Cowley Road Works to apply for their small and medium grants which had the potential to provide £15,000 extra funding but these suggestions were not taken up.

The councillor said the opportunity to host the carnival in one of the city’s parks was even suggested to avoid the road closure cost, but neither was this suggestion pursued. 

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The event had planned to bring together 1,000 artists and 700 procession participants which would have cost £130,000 in total.

Mr Larkin- who performs as a DJ under the name Count Skylarkin- blamed the funding shortfall on the Arts Council not providing any support and the city council reducing their grant.

He said: “The council is feeling the pinch like lots of councils and households across the country.

“They committed to a lower figure this year.

“This is understandable because we have not hosted a carnival for four years so they may have thought it was not going to happen.”

The carnival's trustees made an application for £29,000 of funding from the Arts Council but this was not successful.

Mr Larkin told the Oxford Mail that the committee had raised enough money to host the event itself but still desperately needed the money to pay for the infrastructure before the festivities begin.

An Arts Council spokesman previously told the Oxford Mail: “Between 2016 and 2020 we invested £281,886 in Cowley Road Carnival.

“Our funding programmes have a high level of competition for funds and we recognise this is disappointing for some applicants, but we are unable to support all of the good applications we receive.”