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Culture, Literature, Art, Comedy, Theatre, Music

Glass Half-Full:

The Optimism Feature

“IF pushed just say that 2019 IS your YEAR FOR NOT arguing WITH people about politics, society, diet, sexual orientation, religion AND the likelihood of Red Rum coming back TO life.”
Optimism Sunrise over Oxfordshire

This is our Optimism Feature. As such we’ve pulled together some buoyancy from the corners of the OX universe to provide an antidote to the darker nights and impending global political doom.


Chris Thorogood

Deputy Director & Head of Science at University of Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum

Glass Half Full Optimism

Chris Thorogood © KT Bruce

The psychological benefits of being around plants are just endless: they improve our mood, they reduce our levels of stress, and they increase our productivity in the workplace, to name just a few. Being around plants just makes my soul sing. And luckily for me, I am a botanist, and my life is a green blur! I recently acquired a dilapidated little greenhouse – something I’ve wanted since I was a little boy. This year I am going to cram it full with frondescent foliage and verdant vines, and create my own little tropical sanctuary.

Chris Thorogood brings Peculiar Plants to Oxford Literary Festival, 31 March, Oxford Martin School


La Voix

Variety Performer

Glass Half Full Optimism La Voix
La Voix © Michael Wharley

I’m determined in 2019 to be more selfish. Yes, it’s true. I give, give, give and now I’m determined to take a little. And if you want to take too… why not take a relative, loved one or your partner to my fabulous one-woman show at Aylesbury Waterside. Some say it’s the best Valentine’s gift you can give. You see, I’ve broken my New Year’s resolution already, I’m giving again. Maybe for 2020 I’ll give up shameless plugs…

La Voix – Live, Loud and Fabulous plays Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 15 February


Jo Thoenes

Producer/Presenter, BFBS Brize Norton (Forces Radio)

Glass Half Full Optimism Jo Thoenes
Jo Thoenes

It’s tempting at the start of each year to set yourself resolutions and lifestyle goals that you will beat yourself up over if/when you don’t hit them. I’ve given up on that, and last year decided to do things a little differently. I challenged myself to read 12 books in 12 months, I wanted to conquer a particularly tough hill climb on my bike, and I hoped to run a new PB at my local parkrun. I haven’t achieved any of them, but neither do I feel I failed.

Because I did read nine books cover to cover – six more than I read in 2017. I have discovered new authors and shared the love of a good read with new and old friends. The hill climb out of Ramsbury beat me and my bike again – I fell off into a ditch. I also rode many, many other miles with friends, and laughed and smiled and soaked up the beautiful British countryside.

And in reality I didn’t stand much chance of beating my parkrun PB which I set six years ago. But last year I ran with greater regularity than ever before, and now have an Oxford Half Marathon medal to my name. So here’s to 2019. I’m not going to beat myself up trying to become a better version of myself; I’m going to celebrate all I already am.



Tom Stade


Glass Half Full Optimism Tom Stade
Tom Stade © Trudy Stade Photography

I’m hopeful that in 2019 cloning finally gets the green light and we splice the genes of David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty to create the world’s first genetically enhanced Rock God. Go Science! I hope we catch the guy or girl that started this whole ridiculous climate change hoax. Global warming, yeah right. I would like to see the world finally embrace Marxism – it’s the only way people. But one thing I’m really optimistic about this year is my not taking this life too seriously.

Tom Stade plays Swindon Arts Centre 1 March and South Street Arts Centre, Reading 10 May


Sean Carey


Glass Half Full Optimism Sean Carey
Sean Carey © Robert Day

My New Year's resolution is to keep people laughing. I can't wait to get back on the road with The Comedy About A Bank Robbery in 2019. I'm most looking forward taking the show to Ireland. I'm from just outside Dublin and haven't performed at home in nearly four years, so to be bringing this incredible show there is just a dream come true. We'll be hitting Oxford first in the New Year, so be sure to come along and see us. It's the perfect tonic to the January blues. You will laugh off all the turkey, I swear.

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery plays Oxford Playhouse 15-19 January

Sophie Elkan

Author and OX Magazine Contributor

Glass Half Full Optimism Sophie Elkan
Sophie Elkan

For 2019 I’m taking inspiration from Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp.”¯ No, I’m not channelling curtains and dirndls – well, not right now. You see, I’m not one for resolutions – our lives don’t automatically reboot on the first day of the year – and who wants to enter into dreary January willingly undergoing self-deprivation or self-recrimination? There may be uncertainty ahead, but I’m feeling buoyed by a sense of self-belief. I may not personally be able to control the climate, negotiate Brexit, etc. but I can have confidence in me and that feels like a good start to the year.


Philip Baldwin

LGBT/HIV Activist

Glass Half Full Optimism Philip Baldwin
Philip Baldwin © M J Chapman

As an HIV activist it has been incredible to watch HIV diagnoses falling in the UK over the last three years. In 2015 there were 6,095 new HIV diagnoses in the UK, compared with 4,363 in 2017. This is a huge drop of 28%. The UK is a world leader in this area, due to the implementation of new approaches to treatment and prevention. HIV diagnoses should not just continue to decline, but I am optimistic that, hopefully by 2030, we will see the end of new HIV transmissions in the UK.


Tess Taylor

Co-Founder and Director, Tap Social Movement

Glass Half Full Optimism Tess Taylor
Tess Taylor © Ian Wallman

My hope for 2019 is that consumers are more informed, educated and interested in the impact that the products they purchase (and the suppliers who have produced them) have on the environment, on the local community and on society as a whole. I’m optimistic about better business in 2019 as a result of this – with people making smarter buying decisions that reflect their personal views. This means more people supporting their local businesses, looking for environmentally friendly and ethically-produced goods, and seeking out companies that have a strong moral compass driving everything they do.

Paul Mayhew-Archer

Co-writer of The Vicar of Dibley, diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.

Glass Half Full Optimism Paul Mayhew Archer
Paul Mayhew-Archer

In 2018 I took my first one-man comedy show to the Edinburgh Fringe and I loved it. And audiences seemed to love it. In fact it did so well I’m about to go on a nationwide tour. I’m so thrilled. Me. At 66 years old. With Parkinson’s. Having the chance to travel the country and make people laugh… on a bus pass.

Incurable Optimist will be at the Chipping Norton Theatre on 30 March and the Old Fire Station, Oxford 6 and 7 June. I wanted to call it From Dibley to Dribbly but my wife vetoed that.


Hugh Phillimore

Founder, Cornbury Music Festival

Glass Half Full Optimism Hugh Phillimore
Hugh & Rose Phillimore

I’m going to keep spreading the joy that is Cornbury again in 2019. When I staged the Fabulous Finale back in 2017 I really thought I was done with the stresses and strains of trying to hold this lovely little monster together. However, I soon realised as I was dragged back by the lovely outpouring of support from our loyal punters that Cornbury really did spread a lot of love and was responsible for quite a lot of joy in quite a lot of people’s lives, so continue it I must. What a privilege it is to entertain people. I remain firmly optimistic that we may for once break even this year. (OK, maybe just a small loss then!)

Cornbury will be held 5-7 July at Great Tew Park. The Beach Boys are already confirmed as closing night headliners.

Nick Boyd

Managing Director, 20-20 PR

Glass Half Full Optimism Nick Boyd
Nick Boyd

Here are our ‘almost-2020 resolutions’. Firstly, between 1 January and 31 March, try to make three random acts of kindness to a complete stranger. If you like it, then repeat the process quarterly for the rest of the year. If you really like it, try to get your company involved. Let’s join up together on the RACK – Random Acts of Corporate Kindness. Secondly, if you disagree with someone, just accept their differing point of view and explain that you’re a firm believer in people holding such conflicting views. Explain that their own position doesn’t work for you and yours is a personal view that you have no wish to either be boorish or to convert people to. If pushed just say that 2019 is your year for not arguing with people about politics, society, diet, sexual orientation, religion and the likelihood of Red Rum coming back to life. Life is what it is! Finally, have fun, avoid the curse of tribalism, adopt the policy of ‘live and let live’, accept that we are not all born equal, that the world is unfair and that not everyone likes live parrots, grilled pork chops, rare roast beef or oily fish. For those who think it is worth making everyone’s lives a misery on any of the above subjects because of some overarching moral superiority, I suggest a quiet lie-down and a cold compress.


Mon 1 Jul 2024

Dr Brian Briggs – “Brian is fine” – divides his time between Llanelli’s Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Wetland Centre, where he is senior reserve warden, and his ‘other

nik kershaw
Fri 31 May 2024

Nik Kershaw’s debut album Human Racing came out in 1984 and saw him dominating the singles chart with tracks including Wouldn’t It Be Good, I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Dancing Girls. Swiftly followed by The Riddle, Nik spent 62 weeks in the charts and was one of the musicians to play Live Aid in July 1985.

Nell Mescal pwj9ug
Fri 31 May 2024

For the uninitiated, Nell Mescal (yes, sister of actor Paul) is an Irish singer-songwriter who hit the festival circuit hard last summer, playing (amongst others) The Great Escape, BST Hyde Park, Boardmasters and Live at Leeds. This year, she’s headed to Oxfordshire and Alex James’ Big Feastival for August bank holiday weekend. Eloise Lonsdale caught up with her to find out more about her musical style and her recently launched EP, Can I Miss it For a Minute.

Sea Girls Credit Blacksocks qoafap
Fri 31 May 2024

2024’s Truck line-up looks to be one of its best yet, balancing big names with emerging artists and beloved regulars. As an event, it has come to mark start of the summer holidays for its devoted attendees, but how about the acts? We caught up with Oli Khan, drummer in indie-rock band Sea Girls to get the bands-eye view.