Town and Gown

Round & About

Oxford

Muscular Dystrophy UK is inviting the 6,000 plus runners who annually sign up to Oxford Town and Gown to safely run, jog or walk at home in this year’s virtual event for the famous race now in its 39th year. 

Inspired by people running marathons in their gardens and driveways, registrations are open for this year’s race – taking place from now until 6th May.

People like Adam Smith who had signed up to do an amazing four laps of this year’s Town and Gown 10k are leading the way by registering their own version of a ‘Lockdown Run.’

Race Director at Muscular Dystrophy UK Jessie Keighley said: “The beauty of a ‘virtual’ race is that we’re no longer tied to one location. So, if you know of friends and family up and down the country who would like to join in then get them to register here

“We need your help now even more than ever. Coronavirus has left us battling to fill a £2.8m gap in our funding from lost events just at the moment when the people we help are in real need of our support.”

Anyone who has already registered to run the Oxford Town and Gown will receive a link inviting them to register free for the virtual event and this will explain the process of taking part.

Once people have completed the event, they can log back into their race nation account and upload the date and time they took part as a ‘proof’. As soon as our offices re-open they’ll be sent a well-deserved medal.

How to take part

For more information and to register to take part online

A golden example of dining

Liz Nicholls

Oxford

Liz Nicholls reviews the newly opened Ivy Oxford Brasserie.

In these strange, straitened times, luxury feels like it’s in short supply. In fact, “luxury” has become so rare a concept that it feels a retro, almost naughty. Luckily, the energetic team behind The Ivy Oxford Brasserie haven’t received this particular memo.

From the moment we were ushered inside, off the bleak wintry high street into the velvet-coccoon of the cloakroom we were (to quote Beyoncé) living lavish.

The Ivy Oxford Brasserie’s arrival in this often austere city of broken dreams has caused a big fat buzz for good reason. Because we’re all hungry for some luxury, and a place to celebrate rather than commiserate.

As with its celebrity honeypot mother branch in London, and the successful brasserie outposts in Winchester and Marlow, the Ivy brand is all about the best of the best. That’s most thrilling, on first entry, with the service. The staff offer the level of old-fashioned courtesy and enthusiasm that makes you feel like you’re winning at life. I go weak at the knees for a good banquette (especially a curvy orange one) and the effervescent Karim’s recommendation – truffle arancini – were balls of richly flavoured sexy joy; the perfect accompaniment for Magdalen Manhattan.

You can’t visit this Ivy branch without being wowed by its interior. Instagram has helped to gild the Ivy Oxford’s golden age because it really is a maximalist wonderland that feels designed to be snapped. For Pinterest fans like myself, the general vibe could be defined as “1920s Flapper Luxe”, with huge botanical motifs (toucans, butterflies, rainbow trout) and shiny surfaces at every turn. The old bank’s stately dimensions make it the perfect stomping ground for anyone in need of a bit of glam – even strutting up the copper-hued illuminated staircase to the ladies makes you feel special. The toilets themselves (which you might have seen on Insta) are worth special mention: rose quartz sinks, brass taps, gothic-gold floral wallpaper and jewel-hued pouffes… No wonder, then, that the smallest rooms have apparently been papped even more than the chocolate bombe (which comes a close second). And the enamel-ceilinged private hire party room is a golden example of how to create a setting where you can and should celebrate in debauched yet elegant style, a la the Ivy alma mater.

Hype can really detract from a good meal, and I had thought this Ivy outpost might be more style over substance but happily I was proved wrong. Tempura prawns and salt & pepper squid, in their conical silver salver, were crisp and gorgeous dunked in their wasabi and miso dressing and – a greedy choice – the lobster risotto was a divine creation of sweet meaty flesh doused in a seafoamy bisque dressing with a perfect partner of tender samphire.

Another greedy winter choice (and Karim’s recommendation), chicken Milanese was peak pleasure, coated in brioche crumb but kept savoury by a shiny tureen of truffle cream sauce that I kept trying to steal and topped with a rudely perfect fried egg. Then, as if to prove more definitely is more, the blackened cod fillet. This has almost become a cliché dish, which footballers plump for at Nobu and other top-tier celeb haunts, but technically the Ivy version is very hard to fault: pearly succulent fish, baked in a banana leaf beautifully fragrant with sesame and helped to sing with its citrus-pickled fennel (genius) broccoli and yuzu mayonnaise. Top marks too for a sublime sweet potato side and creamed spinach with pine nuts. All of it looked beautiful but tasted even better.

That much-Instagrammed chocolate bombe is also worth its 15 minutes: a grenade of golden flavour whose honeycomb centre oozed out to mingle with the vanilla ice cream once the hot sauce was poured on top to make a big sticky mess.

With all this glitz & glam, you’d expect the Ivy to be expensive but it’s reasonable: a la carte starters hover about the £10 mark, mains around £20 and there’s a three-course set menu for £21 which is stunning value, all things considered.

Hats off to the Ivy team. They’ve managed to live up to the not-inconsiderable hype. From my grandmother – who toasted her 94th birthday here earlier this month – to youngsters in athleisure chinking drinks at the bar, being made to feel like royalty is surely the best measure of success.

See their menu and book here

IF Oxford

Round & About

Oxford

From Friday 18th to Monday 28th October, the funky IF Oxford invites you to enjoy activities at more than 30 venues including the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, City of Oxford College’s Technology Campus and some great pubs, too!

October is your chance to explore cutting-edge research from world-leading academics, uncover big ideas and ask even bigger questions about science, humanity, the world at large and beyond.

There’s hands-on science for all ages at the Westgate Wonderlab on Saturday 19th and, at the Explorazone in Oxford Town Hall on Sunday 20th, find out how identical twins differ, discover the secret powers of super-hero worms and consider what the avatar you choose says about you while evil cyborg sea monsters take to the stage.

Build a robot to compete in a Robochallenge or enjoy Science at the Shops (Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th Oct; Templars Square); explore particle physics with Minecraft or use a smart phone to investigate human anatomy. The body is an extraordinary system – watch a powerful duet between Joel Brown of Candoco Dance Company and Eve Mutso, former Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet in a beautiful performance called 111 (one hundred and eleven). 111 is the imaginary number of vertebrae that Joel and Eve have between them: Eve “moves like she has a hundred” while Joel’s spine is fused and he jokes he only has 11.

See the earliest animals on earth in an art exhibition (First Imprints, from 19th Oct), go “speed-dating for ideas” at Waterstones (24th Oct), or perform life-saving operations (in a board game) at the Old Fire Station (Mon 28th Oct).

With massive fossils being unearthed even now, hear the latest research on whether dinosaurs had colourful feathers and learn about fossilised dung (The Dinosaurs Rediscovered; 23rd Oct); explore time in an immersive multi-sensory performance (The relentless approach of better times; 24th Oct); experience an audio tour as Oxford’s “sonic landscape” reflects an environmental crisis (Only Expansion; 25th Oct); or save penguins (The Crowd and The Cosmos; 25th Oct) as you head to the edges of the universe with BBC astronomer and presenter of The Sky and Night Professor Chris Lintott.

Hold meteorites and moon rock ([email protected]; 26th & 27th Oct); watch researchers battle for the Iron Crown (Fe Fi Fo Fum; 25th Oct), hear about new elements (Superheavy; 25th Oct) or enjoy escape rooms, comedy, poetry, music and more. The majority of events are free to enter. (Donations using a Pay What You Decide model.)

More info

For the full IF Oxford programme

Sunday races

Round & About

Oxford

Today is clearly a good day to run with events taking place in both Oxford and Guildford, the half marathon and 10k, respectively.

The fast and flat 13.1mile course through the streets of the university city of Oxford takes in the colleges, museums and parks that mark out the route.

Runners will cross over the River Cherwell, out into the village of Old Marston and then back past the spectacular colleges. Live music, bands and DJs will be helping to keep their spirits up and if you’re not taking part go along and line the route and cheer them on.

Across in Surrey, Guildford’s first closed-road town centre run, the Guildford 10k, takes place.

Starting from the cobbled high street, run 5km or 10km towards Clandon and back before receiving a huge finisher’s medal.

Some 2,000 runners are expected to take part in the Guildford 10k, which raises money for local charity Harrison’s Fund raising money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The event starts with a warm-up led by Field of Fitness training studio. The Mayor and Town Crier will then officially start the historic town’s first closed-road running race.

Porsche Centre Guildford will lead runners along the gently undulating “out-and-back” routes – which will be lined with local bands, a live DJ and spectators.

An experienced team of race pacers will encourage runners across the finish line where they can then enjoy a post-race massage.

Whether you’re in Oxford or Guildford get out on the streets and support the runners and help some great causes.

Westgate archaeology

Karen Neville

Oxford

Archaeology and history trail unveiled at Westgate Oxford

A brand new interactive archaeological and history trail has been unveiled to the public at Westgate Oxford, showcasing artefacts uncovered during the excavation of the centre site – the largest exposure of medieval buildings yet seen in the city.

Items uncovered relate to the Franciscan Friary that previously existed on the site – founded in 1224 and dissolved in the 1530s.
The trail which has been created in partnership with Oxford Archaeology, comprises of several illustrated totems in and around Westgate Oxford.

Each details information and items of national historic significance uncovered during the 2015/16 archaeological excavation, including:
– The vanished suburb of St Ebbe’s
– Original pavement from the Franciscan Friary
– Art inspired by Franciscan friar Roger Bacon

Locals and tourists alike can interact with the trail and find out more information about the dig by scanning the QR codes on the totems in the centre, or by visiting the Westgate Oxford website from their smartphone. For those wishing to take part in the trail, printed maps are available at the Guest Experience Desk.

The trail also signposts history buffs to other locations of importance within the city including the Weston Library, the Bates Collection at St Aldates Church, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford Castle Quarter, and more.

We never could’ve imagined so many treasures would be unearthed from beneath our feet.

General manager at Westgate Oxford, Brendan Hattam said they were excited to see the opening of the trail. He added: “It’s the culmination of many years’ work alongside Oxford Archaeology, starting with the ground-breaking in 2015. We never could’ve imagined so many treasures would be unearthed from beneath our feet.

“We’ve found medieval handbags and shoes, and now our shopping centre sits on the same site – it’s incredible to think about what existed here before.

“The trail will be an incredible educational resource for both Oxford locals and visitors alike, and its interactive nature appeals to all ages. We’re very proud to be a part of the rich history of Oxford.”

The Westgate Oxford archaeology and history trail is running now.

Find out more information

Line & light: Art show

Round & About

Oxford

From Saturday 9th to Sunday 24th March, enjoy an exhibition of photographs, ceramics and life drawings presented by Gaby Guz and Rob Farrands.

Line and Light is the product of a wintertime collaboration between two artists using three media. It is their first joint exhibition. Rob is a photographer who lives in Oxford and Gaby, an alumna of St John’s, is a ceramicist and artist.

Gaby uses line and light to capture the fleeting poses she likes to draw. Her concerns are to convey the essence and emotion of a subject in the brief time that a dynamic pose allows. Her ceramic vessels are largely monochromatic, with bold black and grey lines spreading across egg-shell like pale surfaces.

Rob’s photographs honour the soft, reduced light of the winter solstice. He has shot directly into the light (often including the sun) and dealt with the resulting technical challenges to produce work with strong monochrome tones. His compositions are intended to arouse both a memory of winter’s darkness and the promise of the coming spring.

Rob’s photographs are all taken in Oxford mostly along the banks of the Thames between Iffley and Sandford. He has previously exhibited at the John Radcliffe Hospital in 2016/17 and also in Art Weeks. Gaby’s raku ceramics are monochrome and provide a perfect complement to Rob’s black and white photographs.

The exhibition is at The Barn Gallery, Kendrew Quad, St John’s College, St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP. Opening times are 12-5pm weekdays and 11am-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit gabyguzart.com and  rfarrands.com to see more about Gaby and Rod!

Shop of Secrets

Round & About

Oxford

The Shop of Secrets is set to cast its spell over Harry Potter fans

Harry Potter fans will be familiar with many of Oxford’s famous sights featuring in the blockbuster films and now there’s a new sight set to cast its spell.

Souvenirs and sweet treats galore will be just some of the charms for visitors at the new Shop of Secrets in historic Broad Street.

And you only have a few days to wait – the shop devoted to the boy wizard and the Fantastic Beasts opens for the first time on Saturday, 9th March.

Magical treasures galore will be on sale with staff dressed as some of the characters from the films.

The Shop of Secrets will be selling a wide range of collectibles including adult and children’s costumes, wands, hats, scarves, some of the original books as well as memorabilia books, and replica props including the famous sorting hat and Lucius Malfoy’s walking stick.

Visitors will also be able to discover some of the weird and wonderful sweets from the Harry Potter films including jelly slugs, chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts every flavour beans.

Co-owner of The Shop of Secrets, Sally Moss, who has run Oxford Campus Stores on Broad Street since 1996, says: “After the huge popularity of Harry Potter and its well-known filming locations in the city, we introduced a range of Harry Potter collectibles which were a hit with tourists and local customers alike.

“With another popular JK Rowling series, the Fantastic Beasts, our range has grown to a point where we needed a space devoted to it all. We had previously been running The Buttery Cafe next door but sadly due to rents more than doubling in the last 10 years, it was no longer a viable business, but has now become home to our exciting new gift shop.

“We can’t wait to welcome our old and new customers to our very own chamber of secrets!”

The first 100 people through the door will receive a bottle of Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer and there will also be a Harry Potter quiz to test your knowledge. The lucky winner will get to fly off with a replica Hogwarts gown and wand from their favourite house at Hogwarts.

Why not take a tour of the locations featured in the films and visit Bodleian Library which featured in The Philosopher’s Stone; New College whose cloisters appeared in The Goblet of Fire and Christ Church which starred in both The Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

True Colours

Liz Nicholls

Oxford

Liz Nicholls chats to world-famous decorative painting expert and queen of chalk paint products, Annie Sloan, 69, who lives in Oxford.

Q. Lovely to chat to you, Annie! Is your house, like mine, a work in progress?
“Yes! I’m so busy it will never be finished. It looks good in parts – so long as I look in the right direction! Of course, it’s very colourful! I don’t have a favourite shade – for me, it’s all about combinations.”

Q. Which artist made a big impression on you as a child?
“Gauguin made a real impression; my father was a fan and we had a lot of prints around the house. I identified with him. His use of colour is pretty strong and he made me want to paint.”

Q. I’ve got to ask you about your music – your pre-punk proto-girl band The Moodies!
“Ah yes – that part of my life still follows me around! We’re talking 1971-74 and yet the band really resonated with people, still does. We had some great fans – Mick Jagger, David Bowie… I think back to those times and think ‘how weird!”

Q. Did you meet Bowie?
“Yes, amazingly. He came to see us play – it was at a cool bar in London called The Last Resort. I was keen to talk to him but it was difficult, I’m afraid, because that night he was looking for cocaine and quite out of it. This was in his gaunt, pale, skinny phase. But we did chat about art school and south London, where he was born and I used to live.”

Q. You’re a citizen of the world – born in Australia to a Scottish father and Fijian mother – do you still find inspiration on your travels?
“Yes; absolutely. I’ve just got back from Oregon and San Francisco. Portland is the coolest place ever! San Francisco used to be the place of flower power but now it’s one of the most expensive places in the world because Yahoo and Google are there; you’ve got these young girls and guys earning mega-bucks and lots of ‘normal’ people who can’t afford to live there, so the city’s a bit schizophrenic. It actually made Oxford look affordable! I always love travelling and seeing what the hipsters are up to. In Portland, there are lots of wooden Victorian painted houses painted in a gorgeous array of colours. I absorb inspiration from everywhere.”

Q. Do you visit a lot of galleries?
“We are so, so lucky to have two amazing galleries in Oxford – Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean. I don’t go to London as much as I used to; I used to go to them all. But whenever I travel I always try to see an exhibition; that feeds my soul hugely. I went to an amazing exhibition in America last week – celebrating 50 years since the summer of love – 1967. Haight-Ashbury, flowers in your hair, all that. It was superb.”

Q. Do you listen to much music?
“Yes, I listen to a lot; anything that relaxes me, any genre. I love Iggy Pop’s show [on BBC R6, Fridays]. He makes me laugh and I love his taste in music and that gravelly voice! My big love is also podcasts. This American Life and Radio Lab are my current faves.”

Q. You started your network of Annie Sloan shops and range of products has expanded hugely from humble beginnings – how does that make you feel?
“Having success in my business is nice – not just financially but I love to support the shops, the network of independent businesses – that’s very rewarding. We all work together. It’s hard in retail at the moment, particularly with the world the way it is.”

Q. Are you at the happiest point in your life, do you think?
“Really, I’ve always been quite happy and grounded. That’s why I moved away from the art scene proper early on – some of it really has a tendency to disappearing up its own bottom. People often tell me I’ve had an impact on their life and inspired them to paint or upcycle, which is fantastic as that’s what it’s all about. Life’s pleasures are often momentary – a good cup of tea, a great exhibition that makes you think ‘I want to create, I want to paint!” I’m happiest with a paintbrush in my hand. I have to find time to make sure I paint, paint, paint as that’s what makes me tick.”

Visit www.anniesloan.co.uk for details of Annie’s local shops and products, including the new stencil range.