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SARAH MAYHEW discovers there’s now much more than meets the eye behind the austere facade of Oxford Town Hall.
The times they are a changin’. You can be forgiven for considering town halls to be grey, civic institutions dreamt up by grey, civic suits.
But changes are afoot in Oxford Town Hall...
Yessirree Bob, it seems that city councillors and their band of merry men are keen to put a splash of colour back in this imposing, yet inspiring, civic seat that sits opposite the Post Office in St Aldate’s.
Occasionally, when ‘caught short’ in town, I’ll nip into the Town Hall to make use of the conveniences.
Last time I made this pilgrimage I was met en route with an unexpected surprise. Oxford Town Hall has opened a gift shop.
Apparently this hidden little Aladdin’s cave of all things tastefully ‘Oxford’ has been there since the end of October.
In true civic institution-style it doesn’t look much, but the shelves are literally packed full of fun and funky surprises showcasing some of the city’s most revered sights, scenes and creative talent.
Doing what they say on the tin, Oxford Town Hall is quite literally ‘Bringing Communities Together’ through this exciting new Oxford-centric equalizer, and I’m delighted to report that all proceeds from the shop will go directly back into supporting community activities and the Oxford City Museum (soon to reopen bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, interactive and up-to-date).
And here’s the real nub of this story – the gift ghop organisers are looking for more local artists, craftspeople, and designers to introduce into the shop on a regular, rolling basis, especially those involved with jewellery and ceramics.
But if that weren’t enough, they also want to introduce an Art and Craft Fair into the Town Hall, and have scheduled the first one to take place on April 14 and 15.
From small acorns (and all that), they have aspirations to move the fair into the main hall in the future with hopes it will become a regular monthly event.
Lidia Pocock, Town Hall manager, said: “We want to offer a stepping stone for upcoming artists and designer-makers to get their work noticed, and provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a new shopping experience and own affordable originals.”
In short, Oxford Town Hall is trying to free itself of its staid, municipal origins and show a little flair.
And for that alone, it should be encouraged...
* The Gift Shop at Oxford TownHall in St Aldate’s is open Monday to Saturday 10am-4.30pm and on Sundays 11am-3pm. See oxfordtownhall.co.uk To register interest in selling your work email Vanessa Lea at email@example.com or call 01865 252086 – goods should ideally retail for under £100. The Gift Shop charges 30 per cent plus VAT commission on all sales (a very reasonable rate). To register interest in the Art & Craft Fair email Annette Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 252162 – tables cost £10 per day.