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:
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