A COMMUNITY-spirited east Oxford man has brought a splash of festive joy to Cowley Road after his one-man campaign for a Christmas tree on the busy street.

Fresh from winning his campaign to fly a flag in Manzil Way Gardens, promoting unity between people of all backgrounds, Amir Steve Ali has for the second year running given a tree a Christmas makeover.

Mr Ali has a Bangladeshi background and is a Muslim, but was dismayed by the lack of a Christmas tree in east Oxford. At his own expense, he bought baubles and decorations which were hung from a tree opposite the currently closed Tesco supermarket in Cowley Road.

Mr Ali, who works as a waiter at the Rice Box restaurant and takeaway in Cowley Road, previously also won a one-man battle to get lights turned on for Christmas in 2019.

He had questioned why lights had been put up in Cowley Road for the Islamic festival of Eid, but not for Christmas, fearing, at the time, it could split the community.

Of his latest project, the 41-year-old said: “There are some new decorations which I’ve bought, and the big baubles from last year.

“I needed all the permissions from the county council again and started that process two months ago.

“I contacted Andy Lederer as we’d been in communication last year.

“I want to thank Andy for supporting me and allowing me to do this for a second time – without him it wouldn’t have been possible.

“It was a big success last year, with no issues, and Andy was more than happy to do it this year.”

The tree was decorated on Saturday morning and Mr Ali said it’s only right Cowley Road is made to look festive.

Read again: Unity flag finally flying high in Oxford after a seven-month campaign

He said: “They’ve come out and put all the decorations up – people were stopping by and taking pictures, and everyone is already very excited by it.

“Cowley Road has nothing in terms of public Christmas decorations – only those inside businesses. There are only Christmas lights in the city centre but Cowley Road is a busy area and is very multicultural, so I stepped up.

Read again: One man’s mission to bring Christmas lights to Cowley Road

“This will help people get in the Christmas spirit. It’s about cheering people up.”

Despite his recent victories, achieved without financial support from local authorities, Mr Ali has already hinted at another one-man crusade – but has not disclosed his plans.

He said: “Hopefully next year I’ll have another big mission to get stuck into.

“I’m proud of these victories as they’re an achievement for everyone. Making people happy is something money can’t buy.

Oxford Mail: Amir Steve Ali with his unity flag. Picture: Ed NixAmir Steve Ali with his unity flag. Picture: Ed Nix

“These things push me to continue making people happy. There’s nothing stopping me as making the public happy is my motivation.

“I feel blessed to have made this happen. Next year I want to make something impossible, possible.”

He added: “People have stress in their lives, money problems, personal problems and there is always the pandemic to worry about. But hopefully things like this make people feel happy and give them a positive feeling.”