AS the sharp-suited, cheerful concierge at the Randolph Hotel, William Thomson spent almost 15 years sharing his knowledge of the best Oxford can offer.

Whether it be advice on bars and restaurants, tickets for a West End show or Wimbledon or help getting a last minute birthday cake, Mr Thomson was the man in the know.

Unfortunately, he was among 78 staff who lost their jobs at the Beaumont Street hotel last year after Chicago-based Graduate Hotels bought the five-star venue from Macdonald.

Not wanting his in-depth knowledge to go to waste, however, he has gone it alone, setting up his own private concierge service called, of course, Ask William. And after a few quiet months during the national lockdowns, business is now rolling in with clients tapping into his local knowledge and all important ‘little black book’ of contacts.

“I loved working at the Randolph,” says Mr Thomson, a Yorkshireman who began his career aged 18 at The Bear in Woodstock.

“It was terribly sad what happened there and difficult for everyone. People loved working there and the team made it what it is. It was very close-knit and we did what we could for each other.

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“But what I need is a purpose – and that purpose is to find out what I can do for people. Time is precious and people want to maximise it. Fortunately, I can do that for them while enjoying it thoroughly.”

With the roadmap out of lockdown giving people some certainty, Mr Thomson has seen a surge in interest for his services, with a boom in enquiries for weddings, anniversaries and events from a pent-up public wanting long awaited celebrations.

“Last year was the year of the cancelled birthday, abandoned trips and delayed weddings,” he says. “But we are now sensing a real urgency for help with bookings and arrangements for this summer and beyond.”

Ask William: concierge William Thomson at Oxfords Bridge of Sighs. Picture by Ed Nix

Ask William: concierge William Thomson at Oxford's Bridge of Sighs. Picture by Ed Nix

In the past week he has advised on weddings, rescheduled birthdays, a corporate dining club and an overseas business trip to Oxford. He said people were desperate to have something to look forward to.

He added: “Like everyone, we are longing to see restrictions lifted safely and permanently. It’s early days, but we are definitely seeing hopeful first steps towards people planning their return to social life.

“We are busy working with venues and other hospitality suppliers to help make the transition back to normality with caution and care.”

Mr Thomson, who lives in Dorchester, near Wallingford, is Oxford’s only member of the international group of elite concierges, Les Clefs d’Or, giving him access to top class assistance around the world. The organisation awarded him the global accolade of Young Concierge of the Year.

He works with specialists such as chauffeur Jonathan Sayers of Concierge Wedding Cars and florist Alison Thompson of Kidlington’s Flower Ladies.

And while he is far too discrete to list his current clients and their requests, he admits to having worked with some famous faces, from former US presidents Carter and Clinton to musician Annie Lennox, actor Anthony Hopkins – who played the piano for guests while staying at at the Randolph – and Baywatch star David Hasselhoff – who he helped ‘disguise’ to get him into an Oxford pub to watch American football’s Superbowl without being recognised.

Local regulars included Morse author Colin Dexter.

His contact book of trusted colleagues lists the county’s premier venues, caterers, tailors, milliners, photographers, craftspeople and specialists in the world of travel, tourism, events and leisure.

“I want to be able to help revive Oxford’s hospitality sector – and my little black book is getting thicker all the time,” he says.

Ask William: concierge William Thomson at Oxfords Bridge of Sighs. Picture by Ed Nix

Ask William: concierge William Thomson at Oxford's Bridge of Sighs. Picture by Ed Nix

“I have been in the world of hospitality all my life” and I am determined to do whatever I can to help my beloved industry get back on its feet and thrive again.

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“As we leave this terrible pandemic behind, I will bring everything I can to the table, to get this party started.”

l Ask William about organising an event at or call him on 01865 341993

Key dates for wedding and event planning:

March 29: Limited weddings of 6 people allowed.

April 12: Restricted weddings of 15 people for a ceremony and reception. Non-essential retail reopening. This will include wedding suppliers such as bridal salons and florists. Venue show rounds currently allowed and menu tastings in line with social mixing rules can be held outside for two families or six individuals.

May 17: Restricted weddings of 30 people for a ceremony and reception. Most social contact rules are currently expected to be lifted. Menu tastings in line with social mixing rules (six people or two households).

June 21: Unrestricted weddings allowed. All legal limits on social contact are currently expected to be removed.