The gulf between Town and Gown in Oxford is symbolised by the St Scholastica Day riots on 10 February 1355. The divisions are no longer violent but the old colleges are surrounded by walls and the old city was walled too. There are aren’t enough bridges literally and metaphorically between town and gown. With the ten year castaway series, I tried to build bridges of friendship.
The Oxford Guild of Guides can’t work at the moment so want to stay connected by exploring new aspects of the city. They asked me to give a lecture on Oxford Castaways. Oxtopian resident Zoe Broughton made this video for me. The history of Oxford is as much about the people as the buildings. I invented a mythological island called Oxtopia where I marooned all 120 together. Its inhabitants come from town, gown and county and were born in five continents. They represent almost every shade of religion and none, every shade of skin colour and background. What connects them is Oxford but Oxford united and not divided by Town and Gown, East and West. I end my lecture with the former food writer of the Oxford Times, Helen Peacock, celebrating her 70th birthday in a hot air balloon – appropriate because the first English man to fly was an Oxford pastry cook James Sadler. Looking down from above there are no divisions!