To celebrate the completion of lengthy roadworks on Oxford Street, the City of Sydney is holding a four-day festival aimed at bringing shoppers back to the strip.

The Always Oxford Street festival, running from Thursday 30 March to Sunday 2 April, will see most Darlinghurst and Paddington retailers on the street offering discounts of around 20 percent.

There will also be live entertainment up and down the strip, including roving musicians and comedians.

The decision to hold the festival comes after local businesses complained the $24.4 million Oxford Street upgrade, which ran from late 2004 until early 2006, had killed off a number of shops and caf?

At the height of the roadworks in mid-2005, some business owners claimed their takings had fallen by up to 60 percent.

During the roadworks, barricades and fences were erected outside businesses and paving was removed, sometimes making it difficult for customers to enter.

The upgrade saw the footpaths widened and paved on both sides of Oxford Street, shop awnings refurbished, trees planted, and new street furniture and lighting added.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore is encouraging people to walk the length of Oxford Street, from Hyde Park to Centennial Park, to discover what’s new during the festival.

After its first major upgrade in nearly 100 years, the new look Oxford Street returns the street to its glorious past as a major Sydney destination, Moore said.

The festival will showcase Oxford Street’s vibrancy and diversity, a distinct culture not found on any other Sydney street.

A spokesperson for the City said highlights of the festival will include the AIDS Trust of Australia’s photography exhibition Decca in the old Gowings building, the Mardi Gras slide show at 87 Oxford Street, and a talk about Cambodian textiles at Cambodia House, Paddington.

The festival is being held in conjunction with the Darlinghurst Business Partnership and the Paddington Chamber of Commerce.

For the lowdown on events and what various businesses are offering, go to the Always Oxford Street website.

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