Woodstock & Bladon News

Digital street photography exhibition celebrates chance encounters with strangers THE NORTH WALL ARTS CENTRE, OXFORD 2 – 20 February 2021

Have you ever stopped a stranger in the street and asked to take their photograph? Ian Taylor has, hundreds of times. Ian’s photographs are available to view online in a digital street photography exhibition, #TheExcuseMeProject, hosted by The North Wall Arts Centre, from 2 – 20 February.

#TheExcuseMeProject, so named because the first thing Ian says to the people he meets is “Excuse Me”, started in 2019 when Ian’s interest in street photography combined with a fascination about the fleeting interactions that we all have with strangers throughout our lives. Ian generated these interactions on the streets of Oxford, Burford, Woodstock and Chipping Norton simply by stopping people on the street, talking to them about the purpose of the project and memorialising that meeting with a photograph. Along with the picture, Ian also asked a few questions about the person. Hence, the finished image has a unique extra level of interest for the viewer that sets it apart from other street photography portraits.

Ian says: “I've often thought about the fleeting interactions we have with other people. It could be a quick comment about something you're both doing or maybe a delivery driver dropping off a parcel or maybe just a conversation with a stranger as you're waiting for a bus. I wonder if they remember it – maybe, maybe not – will it impact their lives – maybe, maybe not – will they even register that it's a noteworthy event – maybe, maybe not. But maybe it will. Maybe, just maybe that interaction will have more impact than you might think. Maybe it'll change a stranger’s point of view, brighten their day, or maybe you're the only person they'll talk to that day.”

“There’s no real posing or direction just a pure, honest, simple portrait. These people weren't expecting to be photographed today. There's an honesty in the way they look. No special preparation for a photo, just a normal day, just a normal person, just a slightly unusual request from a stranger – can I take your photograph?”

Ian managed to continue shooting pictures for the project throughout lockdown, whilst still abiding by social distancing rules, by taking pictures in his village. Ian wanted the lockdown pictures to be slightly different from the main body of work so apart from the usual “what’s your name? Where are you from?” and “what do you do for a living?” questions he added “how long have you lived where you live?” and “what’s something that you’ve done that’s amazing, unusual or that you’re proud of?” This generated some very unexpected answers but also gave the project much more of a community feel. “The resulting photos became a great record of my community in a really positive way that was unrelated to Covid,” says Ian.

The North Wall in Summertown was originally due to host an exhibition of Ian’s project pictures. Still, new lockdown restrictions have meant that it will now be exhibited virtually through The North Wall website, going live on the 2nd of February 2021, for 3 weeks. There is also a podcast on the website where you can hear Ian talking about his work and this particular project. All of #TheExcuseMeProject pictures can be found on Instagram @theexcusemeproject.

Would you like to be part of #TheExcuseMeProject? On Saturday 6 February from 10 am-12 pm, Ian will be offering 10-minute slots over Zoom to anyone over 18 who would like their photograph to be featured in the exhibition. Just like his interactions with people in the street, Ian will take your photo and ask your name, what you do and where you live. Your photo will then be added to the project gallery. Please email lairdn@thenorthwall.com to reserve your place.

Ian says, “I will continue shooting pictures in the way indefinitely as it’s such a unique way to provide any community with a unique record of its people and their lives. Sometimes we should all talk to a stranger – you never quite know what you might find out!”

WOBL Cover for January 2021

In case you missed it, the January 2021 issue of the Woodstock & Bladon News is available to buy as a download for the first time. January's issue features environmental good news from Bladon, a history of Woodstock Pharmacy, and some beautiful art by pupils from the primary school — plus updates from our councillors, museums, and clubs and societies. Please click here to make your £1 purchase.

Steep rises in COVID-19 cases in Oxfordshire have prompted the government to place the county into the new tier 4 level of restrictions from Boxing Day, joining many neighbouring areas in the south-east of England.

Tier 4 is the highest alert level in the national four-tier system, and it means that Oxfordshire residents must stay at home, except for a limited number of purposes. These include essential work that cannot be done from home, buying food, taking exercise, or getting medical treatment. In tier 4, you cannot meet other people socially indoors, unless you live with them or are part of a support bubble.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “We are in a very serious situation, which means that people are once again being told to stay at home. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. The numbers of cases across the county have risen very steeply and we have also seen sharp rises in hospital admissions.

“When we compare our current situation with that of just a few weeks ago, we can clearly see how quickly things can change and how aggressively the virus can spread if we let our guard down even by a fraction. We have seen during 2020 that this virus thrives on human contact. That seems to be even more the case with the new variant, which is 70% more transmissible and is increasingly becoming the dominant strain across the country.

“Tier 4 is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. Unless we all take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks, we risk creating a situation in the early weeks of 2021 that will see further steep rises in the number of cases at exactly the time of year when viruses thrive. This means putting even more pressure on our NHS at its busiest time of year.

“The COVID vaccine has started to be rolled out to the over 80s and health and care staff across Oxfordshire. However, it will be some way into 2021 before this begins to provide protection to larger numbers of the population and make a material difference to the overall situation.

“I would therefore urge everyone to adhere to the new tier 4 rules and to take every precaution. We need to protect ourselves, our communities and the NHS as we enter 2021.”

Cllr Michele Mead, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Obviously I am very disappointed that we have had to move to Tier 4 but it is essential that we all stick to the rules so everyone can stay safe.

“The vaccine programme is rolling out rapidly so hopefully this will be the last time we see these severe measures being imposed. In the meantime, remain vigilant, follow the rules and stay in touch with each other, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Current cases

The number of cases in Oxfordshire stood at 236.5 cases per 100,000 of the population as of December 18. This represents a rise of 86% since December 11. There were 1,636 cases up to December 18 compared to 878 in the week ending December 11.

What are the tier 4 rules?

Stay at home, except for permitted reasons. This includes shopping for food and other essentials, exercise, education, childcare, collecting prescriptions, medical appointments, essential work, and to attend a place of worship. Everyone who can work from home should do so.

You cannot meet other people indoors or in a private garden, unless you live with them or they are part of your support bubble. You can exercise or meet in a public outdoor place with people you live with or your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person at a safe social distance.

You must not travel to other areas, other than for legally permitted reasons, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Shops selling non-essential goods and market stalls not selling food must close.

Cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs must close but they can serve takeaways, click and collect and delivery orders. Personal care, hair and beauty salons must close, as should tattoo, massage and spa venues.

Entertainment venues, indoor attractions and leisure facilities must close. Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments. If they cannot work from home, they are advised not to go to work and claim any support where eligible. Further information can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home

Clinically extremely vulnerable people

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments. If they cannot work from home, they are advised not to go to work and can claim any support where eligible.

Libraries and cultural services

The Oxfordshire Museum and Oxfordshire History Centre will need to close. The county’s libraries will also close but some will provide a limited number of services, including IT access, which must be booked, online services, home library visits and click and collect.

Registration Services

In line with national guidance the county council’s Registration Service will only be conducting wedding or civil partnership ceremonies in exceptional circumstances such as the iIlness of a couple or member of family due to attend ceremony. This would also include a military deployment at short notice, life threatening surgery or debilitating illness as well as for couples where one of them is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

Christmas Tree

Residents are being encouraged to recycle their real Christmas trees.

Householders already signed up for garden waste collections can simply put them out on their next scheduled garden collection from Monday 18 January. Trees should be cut up and placed inside their licensed garden bin.

However, if the garden waste bin is full, the tree can be cut up and left next to the full bin for collection. Trees larger than 90cm / 3ft should be cut into manageable pieces before being put out.

Cllr Norman MacRae, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “Last January more than 9,800 tonnes of garden waste, including Christmas trees, was recycled in West Oxfordshire. Let’s do even better in 2021.

“Putting your tree into the garden waste bin makes disposing of it quick and easy but if you’re not signed up, we’ve organised collection points across the district.”

Anyone, including those who are not garden waste customers, can take their tree along to one of the Council’s collection points on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 January.

Saturday 16 January 9am-11am Black Bourton Rd Car Park, Carterton

Saturday 16 January 1pm-3pm New St Car Park, Chipping Norton

Sunday 17 January 9am-11am Witan Way, Car Park G, Witney

Trees will be taken to the composting facility that processes garden waste.

A masterplan for the redevelopment of Hanborough Station is on track after a £15,000 cash injection was approved by councillors.

The idea for the plan came from a key recommendation from a report prepared by independent consultants last year.

The aim is to see a range of improvements introduced to boost its importance as a key transport hub, reducing pressure on the A40 and integrating into a wider transport strategy for the area to promote active travel including walking, cycling and the use of a bus service.

Cllr Jeff Haine, Cabinet Member for Planning Strategy at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “This masterplan will map out the huge potential of Hanborough station which is becoming increasingly important in the overall development of the surrounding area.

“Hanborough has always been well placed as a link to Oxford, London and Worcester and we can now start to realise its key role as we look to support housing growth and the visitor economy.”

The Council’s Cabinet approved the £15,000 funding which will come from the unallocated Housing and Planning Delivery Grant and will be used to match-fund a £15,000 contribution from Oxfordshire County Council.

Cllr Alaa Al-Yousuf, who represents Freeland and Hanborough, added: “Hanborough is already a busy station and will become more so in the future so this plan is essential for its development and that of the wider area to include an active transport strategy.”

Earlier this year saw the formation of the Hanborough Station Sub-Group, part of the North Cotswold Line Task Force, which brings together five county councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The task force is hoping for additional trains between Hanborough and Oxford.

A pile of refuse sacks against a hedge with fly tipping notices attached

Residents will be able to report fly-tips more easily thanks to an improved service from West Oxfordshire District Council.

A new online form will allow the user to pinpoint the fly-tip on an interactive map so they don’t have to spend time trying to describe the location or looking up a postcode.

That makes it is easier for the Council team to locate and with previously reported cases visible, it also means less duplication, allowing a quicker investigation and clean-up.

If a resident calls for more information about their report, the customer services team can give more detailed case information on the spot.

Cllr Norman MacRae, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “Fly-tipping is a crime as well as blight on the environment which we take very seriously.

“This system will help us not only clean up fly-tips but track down offenders and ensure they are fined accordingly.”

To report a fly-tip see: https://community.westoxon.gov.uk/s/fly-tip

Press Release

A large orange pumpkin sits inside a steel wheelbarrow on a gravel path

Residents are being urged not to let their Halloween pumpkins go to waste.

Once the celebrations are over, pumpkins can be cut up and placed them in the food waste bin to be picked up as part of the usual weekly collection.

If the bin is full, leave whole pumpkins beside it and we will take them.

Cllr Norman MacRae, Cabinet Member for the Environment at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “For me one of the scariest parts of Halloween is the thought of all those pumpkins going to waste.

“There are lots of recipes for pumpkin and anything you don’t use can go into the food waste to make organic compost for next year’s crop.”

Last year, with the help of residents, the District Council collected more than 4,000 tonnes of food waste in West Oxfordshire which was taken to the processing plant near Cassington to be recycled into electricity and organic fertiliser.

Cllr MacRae added: “It’s not just your pumpkins that can be recycled either. Any other food leftovers, cooked or raw, can go in your food waste bin.”

If pumpkins are still edible, they can be used for cooking – see the Love Food, Hate Waste website for recipe ideas:


For more information about waste and recycling in West Oxfordshire, or to order a free food waste bin and kitchen caddy, see www.westoxon.gov.uk/bins or call 01993 861000.

Press Release

An illustration urging residents to be vigilant and remember to thoroughly wash their hands.

Residents are being advised to be extra vigilant, particularly over half-term, as cases of coronavirus continue to spread across the county.

Evidence shows that, in the past two weeks, the virus has spread to a much wider age range across the county and is no longer confined to younger people. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.

Oxfordshire is currently at the ‘medium’ or tier 1 level in the COVID-19 alert system. This is the national three-tier system, which classifies areas as medium, high or very high based on their numbers of infection and overall risk level.

Discussions have taken place this week with central Government about whether Oxfordshire should move to the ‘high’ alert level, given concerns over the spread of the virus to age groups beyond people in their teens and 20s to potentially more vulnerable groups.

The decision has been taken not to move the county to a high alert level at this stage. However, the situation is being monitored extremely closely and Council Leaders and Oxfordshire’s Director of Public Health are pushing for a move to happen as soon as possible.

Moving to a high alert level would mean that residents could not socialise with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

Leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth said: “In light of the escalating situation across the county, we are pushing hard for Oxfordshire to be moved to a high alert level. This would be a preventative measure to stem the spread of the virus and protect the county’s most vulnerable residents.

“We must do everything we can to keep residents across the county safe. We know that the majority of transmissions occur when different households mix, so increasing our alert level to high, which prevents households from mixing socially in indoor settings, is one of the best ways we can help our residents at this critical time.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health Ansaf Azhar said: “With half-term approaching, as well as events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali coming up, we all need to do everything we can to keep safe and stop the spread.

“I know that the temptation for families over half-term will be to meet up and socialise. But with the virus spreading rapidly across the county, we need people to act responsibly.

“If you’re planning to meet up with friends and family, think about arrangements in advance – meet outdoors if you can, but if you’re meeting indoors, make sure you keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and wear a face covering.

“It’s up to all of us to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.”

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