Scaled down Coronation weekend celebrations in Oxford was the right response to “the cost of living squeeze”, a city councillor has said.

While nearby towns such as Abingdon and Witney attracted thousands to free public events for the historic moment, traders and folk living in Oxford have questioned why there was little on show for the masses to enjoy in the city. 

Recently, a Freedom of Information request sent by the Oxford Mail revealed the council had put aside £700 for a Coronation sparkling wine drinks reception, which was a ticketed event, and £700 for street entertainment on Saturday, May 6.

READ MORE: Pub in Oxfordshire village closed for months and needs landlord

Alongside councillors receiving invitations, tickets were offered to community group members for the reception.

The council has highlighted that more than 1,200 people were invited in total to the Christ Church Cathedral service and the subsequent reception.

Oxford Mail: Street Party celebrations in OxfordStreet Party celebrations in Oxford (Image: Ed Nix)

However, aside from the service at the cathedral, business owners have complained that not much more was done in the city centre, meaning people had to go elsewhere to soak in the Coronation atmosphere.

This contrasted with other places in Oxfordshire such as Abingdon, where people turned up in their thousands to the town’s 37th bun throwing event to celebrate King Charles III’s Coronation.

City and Green Party councillor Chris Jarvis said that due to central government not “funding local government properly”, it was right for the council not to spend “significant sums” on coronation events.

Mr Jarvis said the public spent the weekend “how they wished” and highlighted the city council did choose to waive the road closure fee to encourage communities to get together and host street parties.

The charge for the permission to hold small community events is usually £16 but this did not apply for the Coronation weekend.

Mr Jarvis said these street parties demonstrated that celebrations did “not have to be publicly funded” and he argued that removing this street party fee was the “best route to take so people celebrated the Coronation how they saw fit”.

However, the manager of The Cake Shop at Covered Market complained that the lack of events put on by the council meant people were forced to venture out of Oxford to join in with the weekend’s festivities.

Heather, who did not wish to reveal her surname, said: “There wasn’t all that much in Oxford sadly and a lot of people had to leave the city to go to other communities so they could take advantage of the festivities which were happening there.”

She said there was plenty of scope for the council to have done more in “terms of bringing people together around the Coronation”.

The businesswoman added: “There wasn’t that much taking place in the Oxford area to be quite honest”.

Speaking about this year’s bun throwing in Abingdon, Dr Nathan Ley, an Abingdon North councillor, said the event was “magnificent” and he couldn’t imagine “there were many places in the country who do big national occasions like we do”.

Hotelier Jeremy Mogford, the owner of Old Bank Hotel in High Street and Old Parsonage Hotel in Banbury Road, said the council’s “lack of initiative was unsurprising” and he argued it was a great shame “a real chance to promote some city wide joy and goodwill passed us all by”.

Oxford Mail: Hotelier Jeremy MogfordHotelier Jeremy Mogford (Image: Ed Nix)

He added: “I think the business community and residents were hoping the city council would coordinate and sponsor some Oxford celebrations for King Charles’ Coronation.

“Once again it was left to individual businesses and pockets of locals to do their own thing.”

Despite Mr Mogford’s criticism of the council, some business owners at Covered Market said the council did make an “effort” and they described Saturday as “super busy” for traders.

Oliver Mason, owner of the bookshop and café Gulp Fiction, said the business recorded its “second best Saturday ever” and he attributed this successful day to the Coronation.

Darren Colmer, a porter at Covered Market and employee at Jemini Flowers, credited the council with “putting a lot of Union Jacks around the market”.

He explained: “It was really busy on Saturday.

“With the help of the porters, the council did make the effort with hanging Union Jack flags and their work did encourage more people to come in.”

Dylan Dudbridge-Hay, manager at the Oxford’s Lamb and Flag pub, said the weekend was actually quieter than the May Day celebrations, as there was “a massive number of people who came through the doors last Monday”.

An Oxford City Council spokesman said: “Oxford City Council marked the Coronation of King Charles III with a magnificent three-hour peel of the Carfax Tower bells.

“The bells were rung by Oxford Society of Change Ringers on behalf of Oxford City Council. The Union Jack was also raised above both the Town Hall and Carfax.

“The city council contributed financially to the coronation celebration at Christ Church Cathedral, which was open to the public to attend.

“Additionally, the city council facilitated around 30 road closures to allow street parties to take place and waived the road closure charge for small community events.”

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Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

Ed’s weekly politics newsletter is released every Saturday morning.