Thousands of people will start gathering under the tower on Magdalen Bridge and along the High Street from 5am on Sunday morning to celebrate the unique Oxford tradition of May Morning.

This will be the first time the 500-year-old celebration has been held live since 2019 due to Covid and falls on a Bank Holiday weekend.

At 6am from the top of Magdalen College’s Great Tower choristers sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus, which was composed in the 17th century by a Fellow of Magdalen College and has been sung every year ever since.

The Great Tower’s bells will then ring out over the city for around 20 minutes.

Morris Dancing and folk singing in the streets will help celebrate the coming of Spring. 

Witney Gazette:

Clubs will be staying open later while many restaurants and pubs will be open offering breakfast, beer and Bucks Fizz from 5.30am.

The Bear Inn on Alfred Street opens at 6 with John Otway kicking off the music at 7am followed by six bands and an all-day barbecue.

Quod Restaurant and Bar on the High Street is currently fully booked for breakfast and Vaults & Garden Café is serving a May Morning menu of Full Oxford, vegetarian and vegan breakfasts, eggs and salmon and Bucks Fizz.

Paula Redway, Oxford City Council’s Culture and Community Development Manager, said: “May Day is an occasion to lift the spirits and be joyful, and absolutely unique to Oxford.

"Many thanks to those who donated generously to enable artworks to be installed on the bridge this year to celebrate.

"We know people will be excited after the two year absence but we ask people attending this year’s event make themselves aware of the plans and follow instructions from stewards on the day.”

Witney Gazette:

The council coordinates the event with partners including Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Oxfordshire County Council and Magdalen College.

Road closures will be in place from 2am until 9am on Sunday, 1 May.

These include:

  • High Street: from The Plain to just east of its junction with King Edward Street
  • Longwall Street: from High Street to Holywell Street
  • Rose Lane: for its entire length
  • Queens Lane: for its entire length
  • Merton Street: at its junction with High Street

Exemptions are included for emergency services and essential access.

A crowd management system, which was successfully implemented for the first time in 2018, will again be in place.

There will be one-way channels created on Magdalen Bridge to enable the crowd to flow safely during, and immediately after, the event.

People will not be allowed to stop in the channels, and stewards and signs will be in place to direct people to areas where they can stop and view the event. People wishing to move through, or leave the event space, will need to keep left.

Witney Gazette:

If capacity is reached on Magdalen Bridge, stewards and barriers will be used to stop any more people from accessing the bridge from the west and east.

Bicycles – including those ridden and pushed – will not be allowed to cross Magdalen Bridge immediately before, or during, the event.

Designated viewing areas for wheelchair users, families with young children and those with buggies will be available in the car park of Magdalen College School and in Rose Lane.