Oxford’s hidden secrets… 


      First they came in dribs and drabs, clutching brightly coloured invites with the cryptic message “Halcyon Daze, meet at the roundabout at 7.30…” Then from nowhere a crowd appeared, thrusting their coach fares eagerly into my hands. Doing my best travel agent impression I loaded them onto the bus, being pushed from all sides. The driver took us along the now darkening country lanes, twisting and turning, no one really sure where we were going. Looking at the people with me I could hardly believe we were mostly Oxford students; no Brideshead Revisited here, with everyone covered in silver and luminous paint, we would have looked more at home an underground party in Goa. 

      Turning down an impossibly small track, we finally reached our goal. Everybody poured off the coach, and headed towards the converted barn, which was decorated with amazing drapes, swirling lights and the ubiquitous UV. Techno basslines pounded out of the soundsystem, and as I ran off to organise more DJs everyone started getting the drinks in, or kicked back and relaxed to the reggae in the chill-out room.  

      Before I knew it the place had exploded, hundreds more people had arrived, a fabulously friendly mix of students, locals and out-of-town hardcore… all decked out as space punks and cyber gypsies, ready to have it large. A man with a Day-Glo pink mullet took the decks, rocking the crowd with wicked jump-up jungle; a hyperspace fairy at the front bopping up and down in her tutu. Outside a dreadlocked boy performed amazing tricks with glowing juggling balls, while a gang looked on cheerily smoking and chilling. We ran to and fro, desperately trying to keep the party running smoothly, constantly amused by the snippets of overheard conversation. A particular gem was “yeah, fuck school!” yelled by a member of the under-age skateboarding crew, who had wormed their way here without their parents’ knowledge.  

      One of the local free party tribe took over the DJing just as the live act arrived with a carload of equipment. As we frantically set up the electronic kit, a half-naked angel on stilts appeared from nowhere, bounding and leaping across the room. The crowd kept dancing and dancing, pupils wide and hands in the air… Two trance DJs playing back to back as the lights came on, but everybody just carried on regardless. Dub boomed out to signal the end of the night; everyone still hugging as they wandered back outside. We piled back on the bus, ready for one of the many after-parties at houses all over Oxford. I flopped down on the front seat, exhausted. ”Boat race? What boat race?” I thought to myself….