Monday, May 25, 2009

May Morning Oxford 2009 - and the "Mitchell" Wall

Well for all the careful preparations by our "nanny state" reps on the Oxfordshire County Council - those who wanted to jump in the Cherwell found a way - simply waiting for the police and paid security to clock off early. So leader of the County Council Keith Mitchell - what was the point? In your arrogance you rode roughly over the feelings of the vast majority of East Oxford residents who were excluded from the festivities with a police blockade. The only thing you achieved was dividing the city on this most historic day? Isn't it time you listened to wiser counsel and started thinking about the cultural value of this ancient, interfaith event rather than burying your nose in spurious risk assessments?

I joined the several hundred relectant souls, including a goodly handful of merry Brooke's students on the St Clements side of the "Mitchell" wall. I would rather have been on the west side, where my friends were enjoying the Morris dancing and assorted folk bands. At the risk of sounding completely mazed - I must record that amongst our throng were two young and beautiful identical blond twins, dressed in yellow and gold - strangely appropriate for welcoming the sun on Beltaine.

Here is my first view of across the bridge:
Police Blockade Oxford May Morning 2009

Perhaps so as not to be accused of favouritism, the police, so I'm told, imposed an even more stringent barrier on the western side. And later, as if to find even more rationale for their expensive and unwanted presence, they sent "snatch squads" into the crowds, compelling them to be silent and then confiscating cans of beer and rather pointedly emptying them down a nearby drain. Strange this on a day when all pubs are given dispensation to open all night, or re-open at six am - perhaps they have a special agenda to clean up May Morning of its heavy drinking aspect - five hundred years of merryment is surely enough!!

I'm happy to say that direct action liberated the bridge - the crowds from the West surging through first - the Brookes students on the East being, to my mind, perhaps too well behaved to force things. Although one rather brave attempt to hoist a fellow student over the barrier went badly wrong when he was unceremoniously dropped on his head. He will live but is hopefully not suing Councillor Mitchell and his safety committee for its failure to provide airbags. I was one of the first to rush through from the East side and caught the end of the excellent folk concert. One grumpy policeman shouted at my "you are a credit to the citizens of Oxford" - presumably he was being ironic. I shouted back I thought him a waste of money and that the police budget was obviously too big if they could afford such a stupid waste of it. In these credit crunch days there is an obvious target for a cut. After all the devil makes work for idle hands - or in modern parlance "too big a budget leads to misssion creep".

There is a growing concensus that 2010 will see a return to the status quo and some common sense when dealing with one of Oxford's treasures. I hope so.

* Keith Mitchell is (was?) the leader the County Council
Judy Heathcoat is (was?) the chair of its so-called "safety committee".

PS: for something that looks refreshingly dangerous check out Gloucester Cheese Rolling


Keith R said...

Well, well - fancy having a non-existent wall named after me. Ho, ho!!

I thought you were an under-graduate reading Englin? However, I see you claim to some literary fame. You must be one of those academics who believes spelling is irrelevant?

It is "Oxfordshire County Council" - not "Oxford County Council".

I think you meant "wiser counsel" and not "wiser council" a little later on.

I think you meant "suing" and not "sueing" further on again ... unless you were thinking of a transitive verb describing an action by a girl or guy called Sue of whom, I seem to remember, Johnny Cash used to sing .....

And it is Cllr Mrs Judy Heathcoat (without an "e") and she is Cabinet Member for Community Safety and our representative on the Police Authority. She is most certainly not an item of furniture; we sit on "chairs" in the County Council.

I could go on but I won't.

The County Council will continue to work with the City Council and the Thames Valley Police and we will all have as our primary concern the safety both of jumpers and of members of the public in a large crowd in a constrained place.

Cllr Keith R Mitchell CBE
Leader of Oxfordshire County Council
Builder of non-existent walls

Mogg Morgan said...

Well thanks for the proof reading but you are still too focussed on the issue of supposed risk rather than the cultural value the event. AFAIK the City Councillors and now the Police would rather you (ie: the County) adopted a more conciliatory approach.