Oxjam has become a permanent and very welcome fixture on Sheffield’s musical landscape. We chatted to Fundraising Coordinator Sian Ellis about Oxjam, Oxfam, what you lucky people have got to look forward to at this year’s festival and how you can get involved.
Why did you choose to start fundraising for Oxfam?
I started fundraising about ten years ago and haven’t stopped since. Oxjam is unique in the sense that it’s a cause I feel passionately about and putting on a local music festival that raises money for charity is fun, rewarding and lets me explore other interests too. International development is something I’ve always felt strongly about and I felt like Oxjam was the highest profile event in Sheffield to get involved with and raise money to help with international development issues through engaging in the thriving local music scene.
What is Oxjam and how did it get started?
It’s a nationwide, multi-venue music festival held in October. It started around a decade ago with the aim of bringing together a network of music lovers to raise money for charity, and it’s a beautiful thing because any town or city can get involved. Each festival is run entirely by a team of volunteers who get together in their own locality with no resources and figure out how to make a grassroots music festival happen. There’s no set structure or recipe for putting on an Oxjam event so you can explore the genres and venues you love or wander far out of your comfort zone and try something new. It’s indiscriminate when it comes to music so a punk gig in a dedicated live music venue is as much the spirit of Oxjam as an orchestral concert in a park – as long as there’s music involved it can be whatever you want it to be.
Which kinds of projects are helped through the money raised by Oxjam?
All the money raised by Oxjams goes towards supporting the work of Oxfam. Their recent mission statement to aim to end extreme poverty in the next fifteen years is a really exciting one. In the last fifteen or so years Oxfam has seen extreme poverty in the world halve, so it’s totally achievable to celebrate its end in the next fifteen years. It might sound impossible but if you look at the statistics of the amount of children in the world who have access to vaccinations, women who have access to education and people who have access to running water, they’re very promising – there’s really not that far to go in the grand scheme of things. Oxfam works to achieve this through a variety of ways including education, tackling climate change, water, food and disaster relief. It’s a holistic approach to ensuring everyone everywhere has access to at least the basics we all need in life because no one deserves to be born into poverty and certainly no-one deserves to die because of it.
Last year was your most successful festival to date, what plans do you have to make it even bigger and better this year?
Traditionally most Oxjams host about four venues at their headline event, sometimes less. Last year Oxjam Sheffield had eight venues on the night as well as a whole host of lead-up events, from gigs stretching further than the city centre and partnerships with other organisations on the Sheffield music scene, to firewalks, a film night, abseils and a local craft market. We made a lot of great connections last year that we’d love to revisit and had a host of new ideas we’d love to put into action. We made an incredible £6,000 for Oxfam in 2015 so our sights are set high!
Which upcoming Oxjam events are you most excited about?
We’re at that exciting stage where nothing is set in stone yet, so seeing where old and new connections take us is really electrifying. Everyone who gets involved in Oxjam Sheffield cares about the local music scene and the whole festival is planned and executed by people who are really passionate about what they’re doing. We put on a range of events in the run-up to the festival but I’d have to say that the festival itself is my absolute favourite – to have so many venues with so many different genres and mixes of people gives you a real rush and means you can indulge whichever musical mood you happen to be feeling at the time. Previous Oxjam Sheffield acts have included Drenge and Nai Harvest so you never know what our acts will go on to do next.
How can people get involved in Oxjam?
There are lots of ways to get involved, it depends what you want to do! We’re always looking for people to join our team of organisers either as coordinators or assistants depending on how much you want to commit. We’d love to link up with people interested in putting on their own one-off events or anyone in the music industry who wants to get involved, whether they’re in a band, know about music tech or are a whizz at promoting. We also recruit extra volunteers who just want to help out on the day. But everyone can help by buying a ticket, telling your friends, liking us on Facebook and chucking a quid in one of our buckets if you see us at an event. It all adds up and goes towards the incredible work that Oxfam does, and helps us show the world what a generous bunch of people Sheffield folk are!
Interview by Felicity Jackson
Images courtsey of Oxjam Sheffield