On Saturday 19 October some of Reading’s freshest and finest home-grown talent took to the stage to raise money for Oxfam. With over 60 performers across 6 venues the Oxjam Reading Takeover was an eclectic, grassroots festival that celebrated the work of local musicians.
As part of a national annual event which has been running for 6 years, the Reading takeover was one of many small festivals during October run completely by volunteers with all proceeds going to Oxfam. Speaking to Kat, the event manager at the volunteers’ meeting on the morning of the Takeover it was clear to see just how much work had gone into organising the event. With a dedicated team of event staff over the course of 6 months, the festival has not only taken shape but also transformed into a successful and profitable event for the charity.
As I wandered from venue to venue I got to speak to many of the volunteers, some of whom were just there for the day. From students to young professionals, everyone shared a collective interest; music. The event not only gave young people an excellent opportunity to gain work experience in the music industry, but also provided unique volunteering opportunities and a chance to meet like-minded people. Speaking to Laura who had the task of recruiting volunteers it would seem that although there were plenty of people who came forward, seeing even more next year would be a huge aid and incentive for future events.
Most of the volunteers who had offered to help found out about the event through different channels of communication; be it word of mouth, volunteer fairs or even the RVA website, the diverse range of people that became involved in the festival through their sheer love for music proved to make a very dynamic, functional and successful team. For others, Oxjam was a way to use an already existing skillset and put it to more charitable use, such as Rhiannan, a member of the core events management team who works in marketing by day and volunteers for events such as Oxjam to offer her knowledge and expertise for free. It was quite clear to see how the work of people such as Rhiannan and her fellow volunteers paid off, with some venues filling up to maximum capacity and people from all over Reading pouring in to see the local talent, and the talent was definitely something worth coming to see!
From the ethereal, mellow vocals of Christopher Ryman of My Northern Sky (one of my favourites of the day) to the raw, metallic sounds of teenage band The Reaper, and the deep, bassy hip-hop beats of Hot Property, the distinct and varied range of music on offer to the public was huge. Speaking to Bear & the Woods, a folk’n’roll four-piece from Reading who have worked with Oxjam in the past, it was clear that the event was just as fun for the musicians as it was for the audiences, as band member Matt comments, “The atmosphere’s great and everyone just wants to have a good time for a brilliant cause – why on earth wouldn’t you want to be part of that again? I’d recommend it to any band out there.”
The festival was a platform for local, emerging musicians to reach into their community, and as Matt told me, “to people who really care about music.” It was also a means for members of the community to give back to charity, and this year the Reading Takeover raised over £9,000 for Oxfam, no mean feat for an event which only takes place over the course of one afternoon and evening in a cold and rainy October. The way I see it, festivals like Oxjam need to happen more often, as the event itself campaigns – ‘Local Music, Global Impact.’