The First Year
The Tandem journey began in 2014. We launched our Open Meeting series to act as a platform for members of the community to collaborate and build their own festival. Through volunteer-power alone, the Tandem team began engaging with Community Action Groups (CAGs) around Oxfordshire alongside talented young musicians and artists, to create a unique, community-led festival that fuses environmental and social issues with art. Tandem Festival was born.
Tandem is a music festival that brings art together with talks and workshops on social and environmental issues. Tandem also acts as a retail platform for small local businesses, is a space for community projects to collaborate, and is a celebration of international culture. Tandem Festival focuses on bringing people together and working ‘in tandem’ to inspire new ways of thinking about environmental and social change. Our first two years saw the festival hosted at Hill End Outdoor Education Centre in Farmoor. We took a break in 2016, instead taking the opportunity to focus on consolidating the organisation and preparing to launch a third edition of the 3-day festival in 2017. We kept the music alive by partnering with Restore, bringing Tandem Festival into the centre of Oxford to reach new audiences and work more closely with our other city-centre based partners. You can read more about Tandem 2016 below.
Tandem’s music program is carefully designed to be diverse, innovative and pioneering – a carefully thought out balance between acoustic and amplified music. We have worked with local promoters Catweazle and Sofar Sounds Oxford to bring our audience the best of the local music scene alongside international stages curated by international partners such as Nightscapes Productions (Nl) and Nomadic Sessions (Fr). Tandem Festival is particularly proud to have worked with internationally acclaimed conductor Cayenna Ponchione to bring a community-based fifty piece orchestra to the festival in 2015, complementing the folk, jazz, indie and world music program with classical music.
The Second Year
Tandem 2015 was the next landmark for our Tandem community. With pre-festival events including joint events with Hubbub, OVADA and ECI, and the creation of InTandem Publications, it became clear that our journey from an annual summer festival to a year-round ‘Collective’ was just beginning. 2015 saw the creation of Tandem’s very own bar, sourcing the best local ales, ciders and wines. We also launched a pilot music camp during the build-up of Tandem Festival called Ethno England. Ethno is a global organisation that brings international folk musicians together to share music and generate cultural exchange – many Oxford-based musicians took part, as well as musicians from Chile, Belgium, France and Spain. This was hugely successful and is running again from the 9th to the 18th June 2017. See the Ethno England section of our website for more information.
2015 also saw a collaboration with the Red Cross to create a stage celebrating refugee culture as part of ‘Refugee Week’, widening the scope of Tandem’s collaborations from local to international. We brought together over 40 Oxford-based community groups and 70 European artists to perform and deliver talks, workshops and films that presented sustainability in an engaging, fun and relevant way. The festival-goers were predominantly Oxford citizens who benefited and learnt not only from the activities and arts on offer, but also from the fact that Tandem embodies its environmental ideals in the very fabric of the festival organisation.
All of the decorations and furnishings used at the festival are rescued and up-cycled: compost toilets are built out of salvaged pallets; all food is vegetarian; the Tandem bar served only local beers, ciders, wines and spirits. Food is sourced locally and ethically, with much of it being food that would have otherwise gone to waste, saving a total of 400kg of food from landfill (equivalent to 1552kg of carbon). Only one stage in the whole site is amplified and only at night, and the audience (and artists) are actively asked to adopt the most eco-friendly mode of transport and join one of the many bike rides heading to the festival from hubs across the UK and Europe. In 2015 we hosted around 400 people at the festival, with about 70% arriving via pedal-power from as far afield as Bristol, Manchester, Cambridge and even Ghent, saving a total of 489.9kg of carbon compared to driving!
In 2016, we moved away from Hill End and partnered with local mental health charity Restore to create an ethical festival of acoustic music. Called Tandem in the Garden, this one-day festival included hands-on workshops, inspiring talks and local, gourmet food and drink, at Restore’s hidden garden oasis on the Cowley Road. All profits raised went towards supporting the charity.