Tim Hughes talks to Simon Bailey about his Ritual Union festival, which brings the cream of national and local acts to Oxford’s Cowley Road

Summer is well and truly over, but lovers of music-lovers have one more chance to enjoy the cream of new music, with the launch of a new festival featuring hotly-tipped international, national and local bands.

Called Ritual Union, the all-day festival will see scores of artists descending on Cowley Road on Saturday for a multi-venue spectacular showcasing the best of indie guitar pop, psychedelic rock and shoegaze,

It features Peace, Black Honey, Pinkshinyultrablast, TOY and a dream wishlist of artists including a clutch of Oxford favourites – rising star Willie J Healey, art-pop favourites Candy Says, imaginative indie four-piece Low Island, electronic wizard Kid Kin, garage pop band The Other Dramas, and country-tinged folksters The August List.

And fear not, you won’t need to get your wellies or tents out; the festival is a strictly urban affair, with action taking place at four venues, all within a guitar pick’s throw of each other.

The festival is the genius idea of Simon Bailey of the city’s Future Perfect promotions ¬ which has brought hundreds of exciting up-and-coming bands and artists to town.

Music takes place at the O2 Academy (both rooms), The Truck Store, The Bullingdon and The Library, and, says Simon, it is here to stay – with the event set to grow year on year to become a central date in the city’s musical calendar.

For his inaugural event, Simon has chosen a line-up of his favourite new bands, with artists hailing from as close as west Oxford (Candy Says) and Carterton (Willie J Healey) to Russia (Pinkshinyultrablast) and Bahrain (Flamingods)

Other bands booked for the all-dayer include Bo Ningen, Syd Arthur, Seamus Fogarty, Sweadish Death Candy, Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation, The Vryll Society, Traams, Ulrika Spacek, Dead Pretties, Her’s, Trudy & The Romance, Baby in Vien, Tom Hickox, Mellow Gang, Magique, Van Zeller, The Lizards, Melt Dunes and Calva Louise.

“It’s a real powerhouse line-up,” says Simon, who lives in Headington and cites Cowley Road’s former multi-venue festival, Gathering, as inspiration.

“There hasn’t been anything Oxford at this level for a while. This is something we tried to do a few years ago and staged a smaller event at The Bully last year, called What Became Of Us. Now we have just decided to go for it.

“I want this to be an annual event, to grow and incorporate more venues.”

He said the line-up was a showcase of bands supported by Ritual Union and similar sounding acts, with the emphasis on guitar bands.

“It’s quite niche but we wanted to bring back some of our favourite bands which we have worked with over the past 18 months – and others we want to work with.

“Some multi-venue festivals have a real mix of bands but we wanted it to feel more carefully curated and give people a chance to see the bands we love. We are trying to show that guitar bands are not dead.”

He said a highlight would be the set by Russian female-fronted shoegazers Pinkshinyultrablast.

“This will be one of only two shows in the UK this year, so it is quite a coup,” he says. “I’m also excited by Traams and Dead Pretties – who are going to be big ones for next year. Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation played a smashing show at The Bully and Ulrika Spacek are great and supported Ride and Slowdive. It’s all distortion and shoegaze, and right up our street.”

But he said the Oxfordshire acts would also prove a massive draw. “We wanted to put on a mix of local talent too,” he says. “So we have The August List, Candy Says and Willie J Healey on the main stage at the O2 Academy – which is what it’s all about.”

Willie’s show will inevitably attract a large crowd, with a huge buzz surrounding the west Oxfordshire artist and songwriter. It follows a series of sold-out headline shows, support slots with the likes of Palace and Sundara Karma and the release of his debut album People and their Dogs. It precedes a headline tour later this year, which includes an Oxford show at the O2 Academy on December 9.

“Some of these bands have done smaller shows at The Cellar or The Library but this will be a chance to showcase them in bigger venues which they haven’t yet had a chance to play. It gives them a bigger platform and exposes them to more people.”

Simon expects the festival to attract a diverse mix of music-lovers, saying: “There will be a lot of people who read [Oxford music monthly] Nightshift and listen to 6 Music as well as younger people who read DIY and Dork and listen to the later shows on Radio 1.

“There will be a very diverse audience and I know people are coming from around the country – so it’s great to show what we have in Oxford and what a vibrant music scene there is.

“We alone have put on 150 shows in Oxford this year, which shows how strong the scene is, considering it’s a small city.

“The music we are playing is very much in vogue at the moment. Maybe next year the festival will go in a different direction, with more indie pop, but this is a good first year and is a microcosm of what Ritual Union does all year round – bringing guitar bands and big pop acts to Oxford and developing local talent.”

He said Cowley Road was the perfect setting, with venues close enough together to allow the audience to move around between shows – maximising the amount of bands seen.

“No venue is more than two minutes away from another, so even if you have two bands clashing, you can still see the beginning of one and the end of the other.”

And, he insisted, with summer a distant memory, this was a great time to come together to celebrate new music. “October traditionally sees a lot of bands on tour and many are playing this festival instead of doing a headline show.

“There are great pubs and restaurants close by too, and even if it’s raining, you can step inside a nice Warm venue. And there’s lots of diversity, so you can relax at Truck store then get your face torn off by some ferocious guitar at The Bully!”

Hegoes on: “This is the right time and place to put on something like this and we want people to come down and enjoy it. They’ll have a great day!”

* Ritual Union stars Peace, Black Honey, Willie J Healey and more, and takes place in Cowley Road, Oxford on Saturday.

See ritual union.co.uk