MAJOR figures from the worlds of music, literature, academia, broadcasting, art and theatre come together for 18 days from today for a celebration of the arts in all their forms.

TV presenters and historians Suzannah Lipscomb and Janina Ramirez, cellist Gabriella Swallow, tenor Joseph Calleja, Oxford’s Creation Theatre Company and the Choir of Magdalen College, are among the talent at the Oxford Festival of the Arts, which, for obvious reasons, this year takes place online.

The festival was founded and still sponsored by Magdalen College School, and is aimed at the wider Oxfordshire community. The virtual event is a slimmed down version of the broader original programme which had been planned before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Other names have been postponed to appear live next year. However organisers have stuck to the event’s theme – Tudor England, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of a tournament between King Henry VIIIand King Francis I of France at the so-called Field of the Cloth of Gold, near Calais.

Herald Series:

Dr Janina Ramirez

Prof Lipscomb, who is presenting a talk on women, sex and power in the 16th century, on June 28, says: “In this time of pestilence, literary and artistic events have to innovate, and none is doing it better than the Oxford Festival of the Arts.

“Marking the 500th anniversary of that Tudor party without parallel, the Field of the Cloth of Gold, they have the most lavish feast of virtual delights lined up. Do tune in and sample some of the fine fare.”

Other highlights are set to include a talk by Emma Ridgway, chief curator at Modern Art Oxford on the American modernist Ruth Asawa, ahead of the gallery’s exhibition next year; and performances by jazz artists Zoe Gilby and Andy Champion, 1920s swing band the Easy Rollers, the ORA Singers and pianist Maureen Galea.

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The school’s own Alexis Thompson – a former Masterchef contestant and cookery school owner – will give a demonstration of Tudor cookery.

Herald Series:

Emma Ridgway

Cellist Gabriella Swallow will perform a tribute to the great Oxford musician Jacqueline du Pré on the 75th anniversary of her birth. It will be broadcast on June 25.

She said: “I’m delighted to play a virtual recital at Oxford Festival of Arts this year. Music is more vital than ever and we must continue to communicate it with each other as best we can until we can meet in the concert hall once again.

“Oxford has always held a special place in my heart after giving many concerts in the area over my career and most importantly as my cello was made there by Charles Harris 200 years ago this year.

“The concert celebrates the memory of Jacqueline Du Pre.”

Popular TV art historian, writer and Oxford University teacher Dr Ramirez, from Woodstock, will talk about her soon to be published book in an event called ‘What Goddesses?: Rediscovering Divine Women of the Past’, on June 23.

Tomorrow, Oxford East MP and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds will be in conversation with BBC political correspondent Rob Watson

Herald Series:

Joseph Calleja

Festival Director Dr Michelle Castelletti said she was delighted the event could continue in some form despite the ongoing closure of arts venues.

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She said: “To say I am thrilled is an understatement. This is where the beautiful thing called camaraderie comes into its own.

“I believe in relationships, partnership and creating marvellous things together; and I implicitly trust what has been my loyal friend, ally, refuge and companion, throughout my life – the arts.

“I cannot thank my friends and colleagues enough. We have had endless hours of sparkling conversation to find ways to be with you, our terrific audiences, in this new reality we are living in. I hope this virtual festival will bring you joy, excitement, fascination, insight, ‘welling up’ and fun.

Herald Series:

Zoe Gilby

“It was certainly an extraordinary ride to create this. I could not be prouder than to open the festival with my wonderful friend and compatriot with the molten gold voice, Joseph Calleja.”

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Award-winning jazz singer Zoe Gilby said: “The whole programme for the festival is vibrant, diverse and all of an exceptional standard

"It is an honour to join this magnificent online selection. We always love performing in Oxford. The audiences are warm and appreciative and the reception from everyone involved at the festival is truly heart-warming. This makes it all the more special for us to still be able to perform as part of this tremendous series.”

* Oxford Festival of the Arts continues until July 5. All the events are free and details are on the festival website