My Oxford: Gill Jaggers
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Oxford?
Born in the Big Smoke and transplanted to the Welsh countryside at an early age, I think of myself as a hybrid specimen with roots groping for the bright lights while my head searches for great green empty landscapes. So when I arrived in Oxford I discovered an ideal location to plant myself and bathe in a mini metropolis stuffed with culture and surrounded by vistas of rolling countryside.
What are your favourite haunts around the city?
East Oxford was my immediate destination – at the time affordable and comfortable, in a neighbourhood of family homes with decent sized gardens – it was perfect. Working in the arts (in Oxford I’ve worked at the Playhouse, Pegasus and am now freelance), it was, and is, a grassroots cultural hub with lots of community involvement. I feel really at home here and you’d have to pay me a lot to move – and I mean a lot!
What to you are the most iconic aspects of Oxford?
Oxford is one of those special places where the arts and sciences flourish together. Academia and culture are long lost brothers who, on finding each other, marvel at the similarity of ideas, interests and passions. It’s no fluke that a city boasting two universities should have such a wealth of cultural institutions as well. Or that so many artists, writers and performers should hail from there. I love the museums, galleries and theatres of course and they have a long and illustrious history but the science and technology coming out of the city is equally exciting and inspiring. I’m waiting for the day when Oxford puts on an arts/science/tech festival – I’ll be in the front row.
Where do you eat and drink?
In recent years, while I was working at Pegasus, the area around Magdalen Road became a little foodie haven. Around the same time that the refurbished theatre opened, its neighbour The Magdalen Arms also re-launched with excellent gastro-pub credentials and was shortly followed by Oxfork (now GAF), The Rusty Bike and Ollie’s Thai, all of which I have tried and can thoroughly recommend. A lunchtime favourite, just opened this year by my friend and former colleague Jessica McHugh, is Sylvie’s on Ifflley Road. Great bakery café with loads of tempting savoury dishes and mouthwatering cakes.
What about Oxford has inspired you or helped your creative process?
Cowley Road is unique. The world meets on its pavements and eats in its restaurants. One Christmas I challenged myself to do the entire shop (presents, food, decorations) just visiting the shops on that street. It was a breeze! Everything you could possibly want can be found in or near the main thoroughfare. And it gets no better than when the Cowley Road Carnival is in full swing with everyone on the street, music thudding from unexpected corners, the children’s street parade and performances dotted up and down.
What’s the worst or least attractive thing about Oxford?
Oxford’s shopping centre is a clone of every other town’s high street and has a major traffic route right through the middle. It really bugs me. There are cleverer people than me who know whether there is a solution to this – I hope there is. It could make such a difference.
Do you have an area, street or village in Oxfordshire that is special to you?
My special place is somewhere I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my working life - Pegasus means an awful lot to me. My children were all members of Oxford Youth Theatre and performed regularly on the stage there learning some great skills and meeting some wonderful people. Even I trod the boards once (not that I’d ever do it again – it confirmed my rightful place, admiring and supporting those who CAN perform).
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