CUSTOMERS returning to cafes, restaurants and pubs in Oxford as lockdown eases will be sharing the space with some unusual diners.

Artist Eleanor Greenhalgh is installing life-size papier mache sculptures as part of her Absent Friends project to 'bring some joy' to the city.

The figures are modelled on local people who cannot be there in person due to self-isolating, childcare, or other health reasons.

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They will act as placeholders in cafes and other public places, occupying the seats which must be left empty to ensure social distancing.

The first sculpture has already taken up its seat at Flo’s community cafe in East Oxford, which reopened on Tuesday.

A fundraiser to pay for the creations as Arts Council funding is currently suspended has raised more than £600 so far.

To donate visit or go to to find out about having one installed.