This blog was set up in January 2007 and was concerned only with what happened in Oxford. A twin blog called Oxford Agenda covered things outside Oxford. Both lay unused for several years and were revised and merged in January 2016. This post is the original statement of the purpose of Oxford Inciter.
About Oxford Inciter introduced the twin themes of this site – on the one hand a beautiful city which I hope to encourage you to visit and, on the other, the councillors and bureaucrats who administer it. The photograph below encapsulates the twin themes of this site and serves as a motif for what follows.
Cranes over Port Meadow
In the foreground is Port Meadow, 374 acres of open land which lies between the River Thames and the North Oxford. A canal boat, the oldest form of mechanised transport still in use, lies on the river. Behind are trees and, invisible beyond them a railway line laid down in 1846 and a canal opened in 1790.
In the background are the tower of Magdalen College, the Radcliffe Camera, the University Church, Exeter College Chapel and Lincoln College Library, just the visible examples of the most concentrated collection of towers and spires in the world.
In between, and looming over all of it, is a pile driver, two cranes, and a vulgar new red building bringing us rudely into the 21st Century. A fine tree was hacked down just this side of the red building to make room for the builders’ huts.
What you cannot see behind the trees is a city which is home not just to an old university but to houses, offices, shops, work-places and roads. Some of these things are quite as attractive as the towers and spires and they will get as much attention in Oxford Inciter. Others are not. It requires a great deal of Councillors and council officers in a place like this to reconcile 21st Century living with historic beauty. They fail, badly, and part of Oxford Inciter’s role is draw attention to that failure.
Oxford Inciter therefore has two main purposes:
Enthusiasm for the good things – a kind of subjective, informal, haphazard, illustrated Baedeker. It is about Oxford as it is.
Condemnation of their ruin or potential ruin – it looks both forward and backwards, at pending changes and at past mistakes, in the hope that the latter might inform the former.
To defend something, you have to believe in it and believe that it is worth saving. If I incite you to revolt, I must show that what we have is worth fighting for. My primary purpose here is an aggressive defence of something I value. Defence of the city of Oxford inevitably brings in other things – cultural trends, philosophical positions, waste of public money, bureaucratic incompetence, and (almost accidentally) politics, in that decisions are made by political parties. The main aim, however, is the defence of Oxford.
The predecessors of our councillors and bureaucrats were pilloried in a 1977 book called “The Erosion of Oxford” by Professor James Stevens Curl, which documented the then recent losses to the physical fabric of the city. Curl was no museum curator; he was well aware that cities are living, organic things which have to move on as times change. His complaint was not about change per se but about the crassness and destructive stupidity with which it was managed. Curl’s book is the inspiration for much of what you will find here.