Folk Arts Oxford aims to promote folk and traditional dance, music and song in the Oxfordshire region. In particular we are interested in improving access for those who might face barriers to participation in the arts.

Through our funded project work: children in Headington have learned about local lad William Kimber, and the musical legacy he has left; a new band called Iris has been formed, who accompany all their songs with Makaton signing; children from mainstream and special schools in Oxfordshire have the chance to create music together, and perform on the main stage at Folk Weekend: Oxford.

Alongside our own projects and events, FAO works collaboratively with other local organisations, forging links and creating opportunities for folk artists to work in education and community projects, as well as showcase their talent in local events. 

Makaton Folk Song

This is an innovative new project focused on improving accessibility to music for people who have communication difficulties. Supported by grants from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Folk Camps Society, the project will use Makaton – a communication tool using signs, symbols, and speech – alongside traditional folk songs, with the aim of making them accessible to a wider audience.

Makaton is a language programme used by children and adults with communication difficulties – it is based on British Sign Language, but it is always used alongside spoken English as support for communication rather than a replacement for the spoken word. The Makaton Charity has been developing Makaton for nearly 40 years and there are over 100,000 children and adults who use Makaton either to support speech or as their primary means of communication.

This project is part of a wider accessibility drive at Folk Weekend: Oxford; for the last two years the festival has included a ceilidh specially for children from Special Needs Schools in Oxfordshire. Oxford University Community Fund has also offered a grant towards these activities, which this year will include two SEN ceilidhs, and the debut performance from the Makaton project, performed with a live band.

The Makaton project will work with a group of performing artists to translate twelve  folk songs to be sung with Makaton signing. These will be performed at a 'relaxed' concert during Folk Weekend: Oxford (17th - 19th April 2015). Relaxed performances are a fast-growing phenomenon, allowing adults and children with a wide variety of needs to enjoy high quality performances, without having to worry if they need to make noises or move around during the event.

FCS logoMakaton logoOCF logoSee below for the latest updates on everything happening with the project.


Final performance!

I realise I have been terribly slack in keeping this blog updated - the truth is I was so busy practising my signing that I didn't have time for much else! Thankfully all the practice paid off and we had a fabulous (if slightly nervous!) time at the performance during Folk Weekend. Thank you to all the fantastic audience who came along, sang, signed, made noises and ran around, and generally made for a really lovely morning.

Iris now have the beginnings of a website, which is currently hosted at - you can see videos of the songs from the performance (filmed by my mum!) and a few photos. We're hoping to do more gigs in 2016 and have a few pencilled in already. Do get in touch if you'd like us to come and perform for you!

- Cat :)