“People of Oxford, get ready for something amazing.”
So said the sign I cycled past on my way to work yesterday. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Oxford has a long history of amazing somethings, and now a new one is apparently going to be added to the list.
First off, there is a little known university here, the oldest in England, founded in 1167. 27 Prime Ministers studied at Oxford – some of the greatest leaders the country has ever had, and also Margaret Thatcher. Other eclectic alumni include Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Hawking, Hugh Grant, Ken Loach (no wonder he ended up making the films he did), Rupert Murdoch, Michael Palin, Rachel Riley, JRR Tolkein, Oscar Wilde, Edmund Halley, Samuel Johnson… I could go on.
Queen Mary had Thomas Cranmer burnt at the stake in Broad Street, and in the Civil War, Oxford was the royalist headquarters. In 1651 the first coffee house in England opened in Oxford (they can’t have dreamed that 366 years later every other establishment in the city would be one). The Holywell Music Room, the oldest purpose-built concert hall in Europe, followed in 1748. Methodism was founded here.
We’ve got the celebrated High Street, described by the esteemed historian of architecture Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the world’s great streets”; the Bodleian Library, second only to the British Library in size; the iconic Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren; and the Ashmolean, the world’s first university museum.
So it’s safe to say that the people of Oxford have a pretty high benchmark when it comes to getting ready for something amazing. What, then, could possibly live up to this exalted standard? Who could be confident enough of their undertaking to promote its imminence in such a fashion? Just what forthcoming event is it that can whet the appetites of such an expectant public?
There’s a new Aldi opening on Friday.