Ahead of Don Quixote‘s arrival at Oxford’s Covered Market this month, we have been delving into our venue’s heritage and exploring some of the other fascinating ventures going on inside. Today we spoke to Debbie Dance from Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) about one such project.
“The Covered Market is a gem in the heart of Oxford,” she began, “but there is a tendency to take it for granted.” We may walk through this magnificent place of heritage often, but walking through is one thing and really noticing is another. In Debbie’s words, “maybe we don’t look enough.”
Oxford Preservation Trust’s aim is to bring attention back to the roots and build momentum for the whole market quarter. But how to encourage people to pay attention?
“We thought the best way would be to restore a unit and show people exactly what the place could look like. Bring back the details that we know about but everyday passers through don’t.”
Then, perfectly timed, as if fate was on side with their idea, 3 original units became available. Oxford Preservation Trust jumped right into the opportunity. “Now,” says Debbie, “we’re working to restore some of the old features in the market across 3 original stalls, that until recently were let as one to John Lindsey & Son Butchers.”
The small details they have uncovered in the project already are numerous. “There are lots of features like iron fretwork, iron columns, a stone flag floor, lovely brickwork, all now exposed for us to admire.” Debbie revealed that all this and even more excavated treasures will be open for the public to see at Oxford Open Doors in September. “We will be launching the event on the Friday evening, fittingly as the theme this year is ‘Made In Oxford’ to celebrate things like the Covered Market and all the fantastic independent trade housed under its roof.”
One major theme underpinning the whole project has been the idea of collaboration – Debbie sees her work with Oxford Preservation Trust as just one part of something much greater, to which others (like Creation Theatre!) are also contributing to benefit the community as a whole.
“The project at its core is really a show of confidence in the place – it will look absolutely amazing – but we are also demonstrating to Oxford City Council, who own the Covered Market, that they’re not in this alone. This is a partnership project, and we must all come together to bring the heart, the life and the vibrancy to the place.
“The Covered Market is especially important to support because amongst the grand old architecture of the university, this is a heritage building that belongs to the city itself. But it can only thrive if those of us who say we care really demonstrate our commitment with actions, like Oxford Preservation Trust reinvigorating its life-force, and Creation Theatre animating the space with performance.”
Oxford’s Covered Market has certainly become a hub for many exciting projects in the following months, and Debbie looks to the possibilities of the future with optimism. “Wouldn’t it be nice if that all became an entirely independent market quarter with the Covered Market at its centre. That’s my vision. Let’s come together and make it happen.”
Oxford Open Doors is from Friday 13 – Sunday 15 September.
Creation Theatre’s Don Quixote runs inside the Covered Market from 23 August – 28 September.