IT may not have been on Cowley Road, but that didn’t dampen the festival spirit in East Oxford yesterday.

The annual carnival attracted more than 20,000 revellers to South Park to celebrate the city’s diversity.

This year’s festivities replaced the annual Cowley Road Carnival, which was moved from the road following funding problems.

Enjoying themselves in the park were the Larcombe family from Iffley Road.

Dad Anthony, 39, said: “It’s really good this year, we love that it’s in the park because it’s much more open and you get the chance to see everything.

“We go every year and you are usually four-people deep. There’s just more space here and there are still the same stalls from Cowley Road.”

The day started with a two-hour procession of more than 700 adults and children, including 14 local schools.

Giant puppets of Roald Dahl’s The BFG and characters from Dirty Dancing dominated the view as the procession snaked its way through the park.

Wendy Morrison, from Magdalen Road, watched her daughters Fiona, nine, and Bronwyn, eight.

She said: “I think it’s absolutely brilliant for the community to come together like this, there are so many different groups.

“The girls are in it every year and I’m just so glad it keeps going really, I hope it continues.”

Bronwyn added: “It was really good fun, I liked it a lot. I was dancing and playing music, I play the bells.”

Causing a particular stir in the parade were the Phoenix Flyers, wowing crowds with somersaults and backflips.

The 35-strong group had driven three hours from Hastings to perform for the carnival. The youngest was just six.

Coach Sarah Webber said: “They’ve really enjoyed it. This is the first place many of them have performed at.

“They were just loving it, the crowd were great and really getting behind them.”

Chris Davis from Oxford watched his 11-year-old daughter Ottilie perform with his son Jago, six.

He said: “It’s great, it’s really busy. People are always a bit upset when they can’t walk down Cowley Road but the procession looked brilliant.”

Paul Laird, 43, fromStadhampton, said: “This is the first time I’ve been here and I’m amazed at how many people are here. It’s a really nice atmosphere.”

James Pollard, 27, from Wheatley, said: “We came two years ago and it seems a bit quieter this year, but I think it’s just people are more spread out.”

Janet Larkin, of Risinghurst, said: “I think this is nice for families but when it was on Cowley Road there was a better atmosphere.”

The festivities followed on from Saturday night’s Fiesta in the Park, headlined by rapper Roots Manuva.

He featured alongside band Brass Roots, DJ Count Skylarkin’ and Congolese musician Kanda Bongo Man for the fundraising fiesta.

One of the organisers, Karen David, said: “It all looks like it’s going brilliantly, the atmosphere is great. We’re really pleased.”