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Try this: Classical ‘Cushion Concerts’ for kids

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I’ve mentioned Oxford’s Cushion Concerts for kids on the Muddy Guide before, because the idea – short, informal, interactive concerts for 0-10 years olds – is so fab. Anyway, finally the other week I managed to make it to one and I’m really pleased I did, not least because as a total embarrassing luddite I went to it not knowing what a kora was (oh god, please tell me you don’t know either) and came out quite a bit more more smug than I went in.

St Hilda's College

St Hilda’s College

The concerts are held at the lovely, intimate, acoustically amazing Jaqueline du Pre building at St Hilda’s College Oxford (just off the Magdalen roundabout). St Hilda’s is not one of the most beautiful colleges by any stretch but it has its own piece of river, and the JDP building which is a massive boost to its credentials.


They’re not truly  concerts in fact, starring musician Rozzie and her instrument  ‘Mr Cello’.

In the glass atrium, waiting for the concert

In the glass atrium, waiting for the concert

Rozzie has a gentle way the kids, happily talking away while they pick their noses or roll around on the floor. She warms up the crowd of young children and their attentive smiling, slightly smug parents (of which I was most definitely one) with some gentle songs before the Cello invites the musical guest into the room. Seriously, I’m not making this up! Then the instrumentalist comes into the room playing the instrument while you sit on your cushions – or in my case, my coat because I couldn’t be arsed to bring a cushion all the way from Buckinghamshire – to enjoy the performance.

So this is Willie. He plays and sings with the kora and comes from Senegal. He makes the instrument too – it’s kind of like the piano over there, absolutely everybody learns it.



cushion concert int

The show only lasts for 45 minutes and in many ways it’s just like a gentle music class for kids, showing them rhythm, allowing them to experience different instruments in the orchestra and beyond.

It’s slightly worthy – the moment  when we had to stand up and dance to the music was slightly outside the Muddy embarrassment threshold, and in fact my daughter refused point blank and had to be moved around like a puppet. But every concert will be different, depending on the instrument and player.

I write this now because this Sunday is a particularly groovy one. The brass section is coming in, featuring trombone, trumpet and french horn, with a Christmas theme. I think that’ll be a really good one to go to.

There are three classes – two for younger kids 0-5yrs (10am and 11am), and then a second for 5+ (12pm), and they cost £5 each, or £16 for a family of four.

After the concert, you’re in a perfect location to either have fun in Oxford for the afternoon (straight over Magdalen Bridge to the Botanic Garden or the back of Christchurch down to the river, or into the centre of Oxford for Turl St Kitchen. Or you can do as we did and head up the Iffley Road. We had a delicious brunch at Oxfork, the trendy little cafe on Magdalen Road (just around the corner from the also-very-good Magdalen Arms pub.)

Here’s our little corner of cafe joy.

oxfork fotor pics
After scrambled eggs on sour dough, a pot of tea for two on china cups and a large inhale of artistic East Oxford trendsters, we went home again – all urban, parenting and foodie boxes ticked. What a feeling!

Find more ideas here

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