COMMENT: Reclaimed for everyone

First published in Editorial Comment

When Oscar Wilde described Oxford as: “the most beautiful thing in England”, he clearly wasn’t familiar with George Street.

Or rather the George Street of 2007 so described by Jesus College principal Lord Krebs as ‘vomit alley’ – a quote, unlike Wilde’s, which will certainly never appear on the sides of Oxford’s buses.

However, this colourful nickname was well earned, for not so long ago George Street was just that – a never-ending series of drunken encounters and brawls.

What a difference then both a few years and, so it is claimed, the opening of a certain restaurant has made.

So much so that last December, after a few, brief years in remission, the ‘bad boy’ of Oxford had cleaned up its act to such a degree that the city council was awarded (for the second year running) government-backed Purple Flag status, identifying the city centre as an outstanding and safe place to enjoy an evening out.

According to Graham Jones, chairman of traders’ group Rox, which promotes Oxford business: “The turning point was the arrival of Jamie’s Italian about four years ago, which sent out a signal to restaurant chains outside Oxford that George Street was a good place to do business.”

That together with the police’s Nightsafe initiative has allowed the street to be reclaimed for everyone.

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