May Day means different things to different people all over the world. It is International Workers’ Day where labour movements and left-wing organisations celebrate, it is feted as the start of Spring and there is evidence of flower festivals in Northern Europe dating back to pre-Christian times.
Oxford wakes very early for May Day – madrigals are sung at 6am by Magdalen College choir from the Great Tower to thousands of revellers who congregate on Magdalen Bridge. A more recent tradition has been for students to jump off the bridge into the murky, chilly (and shallow) river Cherwell. After various injuries the authorities have frowned on this and there is now an annual game of cat and mouse between jumpers and police. This year no-one was able to jump despite the concerted efforts of a few hardy souls.
Pubs open at the crack of dawn – this is, after all, thirsty work and the, err, remarkable John Otway has made a habit of playing a 6am gig outside a pub – last year outside The Bear, this year he was at the Head of the River.
As the morning progresses festivities move more central and the Morris Dancers take centre stage. Here are the Charlbury Morris group performing outside the shop this morning – we filled them up with Bucks Fizz and cake, they danced and stopped the traffic. A fair trade I’d say…
The weather this morning was grotty but May Day proved, once again, to be a very ‘Oxford’ experience