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.


Introducing the Makaton band!

With rehearsals well and truly underway, it's about time we introduced you to the band! We're still not 100% on a name - current favourite is Iris (the Greek goddess of communication) but if you have any better ideas then This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

Cat Kelly - vocals and Makaton signing

Cat was inspired to put together the Makaton Folk project after being involved in 'Welcome Songs', a performance for the lighting of the Paralympic Flame in 2012, where she signed four folk songs alongside Eliza Carthy and her band, I Fagiolini, and a full community choir involving people with a range of disabilities. Having been brought up with folk music and dance, Cat has spent the last five years working on musical accessibility, and this project sees her uniting her two musical passions.

Cat leads two community choirs, performs with ceilidh band Triptych, and is currently working with The Makaton Charity to develop a 'Train the Trainer' course for Makaton tutors who want to work with song. In her spare time(!) she runs our community folk festival Folk Weekend: Oxford.

Henry Webster - fiddle

Award-winning fiddle player Henry Webster is among the latest generation of folk musicians bringing a fresh perspective to the tradition. As well as performing solo, Henry is the fiddle player with The Will Pound Band, the genre-bending electronic-folk trio Tandem, and duo Henry Webster & Dave Malkin. Henry is also a session fiddle player, recording fiddle and violin at studios all over London for pop, folk and classical artists, composers and arrangers.

Ollie King - melodeon

Ollie King is a melodeon player and singer whose music is steeped in the customs and traditions of England. Based in Sheffield, he is starting to make a name for himself as one of the most exciting and interesting up-and-coming melodeon players in the country, and has already developed into a mature, well-rounded musician with a unique style and approach to traditional music.

Pete Ord - guitar

Also a producer and sound engineer with a successful record label, Pete's driving guitar rhythms underpin the band's arrangements. He plays regularly with a number of bands including The Ship Band, and Triptych, but is usually seen at Folk Weekend in the dark space behind the sound desk!

More Articles ...

  1. First rehearsals