Oxford's cultural scene used to be buzzing. 

Meandering through the narrow and cobbled streets before you visited the theatre or cracked open a beer at a now non-existent music venue was all part of ‘the Oxford experience’.

Sadly, the places where children saw their first Star Wars movie and learned to lob popcorn for a laugh are in demise.

READ MORE: Oxford Odeon: Demolition 'culture wrecking ball over heads'

Oxford Mail: Campaigners outside Oxford Town HallCampaigners outside Oxford Town Hall (Image: Ed Halford)

Once upon a time, going to the cinema was a treat every person enjoyed.

Many will look fondly back at the excitement they felt before seeing a new and long-awaited film or the dread they experienced before they went on a film date in which the conventions governing when to speak are somewhat hazy.

On Monday, campaigners took over the steps of Oxford Town Hall and they were accompanied by a homemade wrecking ball which had the city council’s logo emblazoned over it.

READ MORE: Odeon cinema Oxford: New council plans revealed for site

The protesters, who were visibly upset, said they were not happy the city council was taking away an iconic building without proper consultation with the community.

The council’s plans to turn the site into an aparthotel and a new community centre are questionable.

Oxford Mail: Campaigners outside Oxford Town HallCampaigners outside Oxford Town Hall (Image: Ed Halford)

The council has claimed that because not enough tourists are staying overnight it must be because they have nowhere to sleep, which in the age of Airbnb seems an odd explanation.

If you visit a new city and want to soak up the atmosphere at night, you’re unlikely to venture back on the train early.

But, if there is no lively nightlife to experience, then booking a hotel is unlikely to have crossed your mind in the first place.

READ MORE: East Oxford youth hall has brought community 'joy and love'

There are plenty of places where students ‘let off steam’ and become slightly intoxicated before crashing out on someone else’s sofa at 3am with garlic mayo smeared across their face.

However, there are few live music venues in Oxford left where local bands can learn which tunes go down best or which songs to play when most people need to top up their drinks at the bar.

Oxford Mail: The cinemas have been packed in Oxford this weekend and across the countryThe cinemas have been packed in Oxford this weekend and across the country (Image: Ian West/PA Wire)

Chris Richmond, a Barton householder, said the very root cause of this issue was that the city had become a “tourist trap” and any new potential sites which could be used to cultivate Oxford’s cultural scene were instantly snapped up for student digs.

Yes, it is understandable the University of Oxford wishes to expand its student population, but we cannot let this happen to the detriment of local people.

When you come back from a lousy day at work or want to spend some quality time with the family on the weekend, more student accommodation in the centre is no good.

READ MORE: Oxford Christmas Market organiser 'devastated' after blow

Councils face a tricky task where they have to weigh up increasing potential sources of income with protecting popular cultural spaces.

Yes, the finances are tight, with everyone being constantly reminded by politicians that the cost-of-living crisis is taking its toll.

But, when community spaces vanish and Oxford’s live music venue scene looks desolate, nobody will be saying ‘well at least the student accommodation is rammed’.

In response to the Oxford Mail's article, city councillor and cabinet member for finance and asset management, Ed Turner said: “We are proud to be supporting, not reducing, Oxford’s cultural scene with this excellent project which will both provide overnight accommodation to people to stay in Oxford and provide a new cultural space.  

"It will also provide much-needed income to the city council, which we can continue to support, for example, grants to grassroots cultural organisations – something we still offer in Oxford but which have ended in many places.

“It is a source of real regret that some live music venues have closed and the City Council has made representations on this point.

"We should not talk down Oxford’s live music scene though, as there remain some excellent venues, and we are very open to discussion about how to support this vital sector.

“The proposal has been worked up in accordance with strategies that have been consulted on, although necessarily public engagement has to be limited in order to comply with procurement frameworks at the moment.  It is our intention to consult very fully on the proposed cultural space once the project is at that stage.  

"At the same time, this is a commercial asset and it was essential we started planning early for the time that the Odeon’s lease came to an end, otherwise there could have been major financial ramifications for the city council”.

Oxford University was approached at the time for comment.

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About the author 

To sign up to Ed's weekly Politics newsletter, click here: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/newsletters/

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 Sunday morning.