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Creative and performing arts at Oriel

There are lots of opportunities to take part in creative or performing arts at Oriel, with a variety of things to get involved with througout the year. Music is a strong feature of life here, and many of our students submit photos, poetry, art, and compositions (written or musical) to our thriving student newspaper. Each year our students come up with new outlets for their creativity.



There are lots of opportunitites to get involved with music at Oriel, whether you’re a singer, composer or instrumentalist. We have a thriving Visiting Fellows in Music programme, which brings world-class musicians to Oriel to provide masterclasses for students.

Our Choir plays a central role in college life, taking part in Chapel services and concerts throughout the year. They also organise a popular tour abroad each summer.

Two Champagne Concerts are held in the Senior Library each year, which attract a range of wonderful performers from all over the country and sometimes feature college members too. These concerts are free for all Oriel students.

For those who prefer more casual outlets for their musical ambitions, there are plenty of opportunities to form music groups with other students and there are regular open mic nights in college where you can show off the results, as well as opportunities to accompany Oriel theatre productions.

More information about the Visiting Fellows in Music programme
More information about the Oriel College Choir


Lots of Oriel students are active in the Oxford University Dramatic Society, but there are also opportunities to perform in college. It is tradition that each year an outdoor ‘garden play’, produced entirely by students, is performed in Front Quad. Previous productions have included Twelfth Night, the Beux Strategem, and Love’s Labours Lost. These productions offer opportunities not just for those who want to act, but for anyone with an interest in theatre production or direction.

The Poor Print


Produced fortnightly during term time, Oriel’s student newspaper, the Poor Print, provides an outlet for “written, visual, and aural creativity, including news, poetry, photography, science, comment, drawing, music, events and entertainment”. Everyone in College is encouraged to get involved, and the Poor Print aims to provide a broad range of perspectives and insights.

Read the Poor Print online

Provost’s Talks

The Provost hosts an ongoing series of events in College in which prominent figures are invited to speak to students and answer questions. Guests have included Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and BBC journalist Samira Ahmed

Eugene Lee-Hamilton Sonnet Prize

The Eugene Lee-Hamilton Sonnet Prize has been awarded by Oriel annually since 1943. A prize of £60 is awarded for the best Petrarchan Sonnet in English submitted by a current undergraduate of Oxford or Cambridge universities. The prize is named for Victorian poet and former Oriel student Eugene Lee-Hamilton, who was a champion of the Petrarchan sonnet form.

Sylvia Plath-Hughes was awarded this prize in 1957, so entrants are in good company.

Find out more about the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Sonnet Prize

Gower Memorial Creative Arts Prize

Every three years Oriel awards the Gower Memorial Creative Arts Prize, offering a prize of up to £500 to any undergraduate or graduate student for a work in any area of the creative arts, other than music (for which College support is provided separately).

Creative arts are interpreted very broadly, but examples of fields in which entries have been welcomed include:

  • Painting and drawing
  • Sculpture
  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Drama
  • Prose
  • Artistic performance

The prize is awarded as the result of a generous benefaction by Mr and Mrs Robert Gower in memory of their daughter, Philippa, who sadly passed away in 2002 before she was able to take up her place at Oriel as an Organ Scholar.

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