No student love for “ear-splitting” and “dystopian” Christian music event

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Students have voiced anger over “unacceptable” levels of noise during the annual Love Oxford event, held on Broad Street on Sunday morning.

Love Oxford, a Christian festival involving participants from churches across Oxford, was scheduled to run from 11am – 12:45, but students’ complaints have reported sound checks taking place as early as 9am in the city-centre location.

Cason Reily, a second-year Trinity student, commented: “It was a weekend without any peace or quiet for us Trinity students. I was mistaken in thinking that the end of Wadstock at midnight and Balliol Ball at 3AM would allow some respite.

“ Lovefest came on that morning louder than either of the previous nights’ events, making both work and rest impossible. The blaring Christian ballads seemed more geared to make finalists and students unhappy that to promote love of any sort.”

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “I could hear the sound pretty clearly from Cornmarket. I didn’t mind – I’m a Christian and think mass events like these are great for the church community to come closer together. It didn’t seem fair on the students living around the area though; I appreciate not everyone wants to get woken up with calls of “hallelujah” first thing on a Sunday morning.”

Sunday morning’s event was the 10th Love Oxford event, and last year involved participants from over 30 churches in the city, including St Aldates and Oxford Bible Church. Several hundred individuals are estimated to have attended on Sunday morning to take part in the open-air service, which included prayers and songs, delivered from a stage via sound systems. According to Love Oxford’s website, the three aims of the event were “to unite in praise, preach the gospel and pray for Oxford”.

In 2014, the event was scheduled to take place on Broad Street, but was moved following clashes with university exams.

Many of the students’ complaints focused on the effect of the event on finalists, such as Exeter student Alice Nutting, who said: “My finals start in two weeks and the noise outside woke me up early. It also made it impossible for me to revise. My windows and door were shaking. Apparently the Bodleian and several other colleges were also affected. Broad Street seemed like a completely inappropriate venue in light of the noise disturbance; the music was unnecessarily loud”.

At least two students have stated that they have already made official complaints to Oxford City Council in order to air their views on the event. One letter, posted on the Love Oxford’s Facebook page, described the noise as “ear-splitting”, adding that, “students from at least 7 colleges (Exeter, Jesus, Lincoln, Balliol, Trinity, Hertford, Wadham) were affected… The noise was unbelievably loud. It could easily be heard from the corner of Parks Road and South Parks Road”.

The draft complaint continued by noting that  “ I am reasonably sure that your average rock band would not be given a license to perform on Broad Street on a Sunday morning” and suggesting that it would be more suitably held in University Parks or somewhere else less central.

Fred Cascarini, one of the students to make an official complaint, stated: “I acted primarily in support of my partner who, as an Exeter student, was significantly disrupted by the event. 

“It seemed unreasonable for such a loud event (at one point I noticed it could be comfortably heard from the southern tip of keble) to be held in the city centre, easily in range of most of the central colleges and libraries, during finals season.”

However, some participants in the event have noted that they were unaware of the wider impact that the open air service would have. One student who attended said: “Reading the comments on the Love Oxford page made me realise that the way Love Oxford was organised this year wasn’t sufficiently sensitive to those in the surrounding area.

“It was a loud event, close to some people’s finals, apparently without reasonable warning, and some have said that sound checks started unnecessarily early. I really am sorry on behalf of those of us who attended for having disturbed anyone who was studying or sleeping – that was as far from our intention as could be. I trust the event organisers will improve this in future.”

Some of the students who made complaints have also received notes of apology from an attendee, while on the event’s Facebook page (where many students first made their concerns known),one attendee has added: “I’m very sorry your revision was disturbed, especially for those of you with exams the next day, and wish you all every blessing!”

The event was managed by Lydia Smith, from St Aldate’s Church in Oxford.

Speaking to The Oxford Mail, Smith said: “I think unity of churches is really important and to do that in a public square is a privilege”.

St Aldate’s Church could not be reached for further comment. 

Photo/Love Oxford