No joke as April Fool stunt gets a fine

thisisoxfordshire: Alasdair de Voil by the tree at Carfax where his stunt backfired Alasdair de Voil by the tree at Carfax where his stunt backfired

MAD Hatter tour guide Alasdair de Voil was hoping to inject a bit of humour into the local elections by covering a tree with fake bank notes, only to fall foul of a po-faced foe: Oxford City Council.

As part of an April Fool’s Day prank, Mr de Voil was trying to promote his Monster Raving Loony party campaign for a city council seat by decorating a tree opposite Carfax tower with dozens of fake notes the size of a £10 to suggest money grew on it.

But after going off to deliver a few more leaflets he returned to find the fake bank notes gone and a city council officer handing him an £80 fine for illegal fly-posting.

The 40-year-old self-styled Mad Hatter said: “I was not gone for a huge amount of time, and I did come back to get rid of it all. I returned to find they had taken it down and confiscated my banner.”

He added: “I said to the council employee: ‘Surely you can understand the context? Do you not have better things to do?’ and he kept saying he was just following the rules.

“It seems a little bit ridiculous and unnecessary. It is frustrating.

“It should have been clear to somebody who looked that this was an April Fool’s Day joke.”

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Mr de Voil said he has ‘no intention’ of paying the fine, adding: “I will not pay a fine for something most people would see as a contribution to society. It wasn’t in the way or blocking anyone.”

One of Mr de Voil’s political opponents for the Carfax ward, Green Party candidate Ruthi Brandt, supported him. She said: “It seems like a little bit of an overreaction.”

But deputy mayor Tony Brett, who is contesting the Carfax seat for the Lib Dems, said: “He perhaps ought to know that all April Fool’s jokes should be over by noon.”

Council board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford John Tanner said: “Fly-posting and littering is no laughing matter and creates a mess even on April Fool’s Day.

“I have every sympathy with Mr de Voil.

“But if we excused him, we’d have to excuse everyone else who stuck up unauthorised posters, dropped a fag end, a crisp packet, or a plastic bottle.

“Fly-posting and litter spoils the look of Oxford and costs the taxpayer to clear up.”

Comments (7)

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10:29am Wed 9 Apr 14

The New Private Eye says...

At last. Well done to the council. This bloke is turning into a new Bill Heine. He is just a self publicist who has been littering our city with his dilapidated cycles, boards and flyers, all in the pursuit of free advertising for his business. Perhaps the removal of his cycles and a few more fines will persuade him to conduct his business in the appropriate way.
At last. Well done to the council. This bloke is turning into a new Bill Heine. He is just a self publicist who has been littering our city with his dilapidated cycles, boards and flyers, all in the pursuit of free advertising for his business. Perhaps the removal of his cycles and a few more fines will persuade him to conduct his business in the appropriate way. The New Private Eye
  • Score: 10

10:33am Wed 9 Apr 14

mytaxes says...

No idea who he is but considering the clowns who represent us they should appreciate a joke. Perhaps the council could also be fined for the numerous out of date planning notices attached to lamposts, railings and trees?
No idea who he is but considering the clowns who represent us they should appreciate a joke. Perhaps the council could also be fined for the numerous out of date planning notices attached to lamposts, railings and trees? mytaxes
  • Score: 21

2:49pm Wed 9 Apr 14

ILoveOxford.com says...

Dear New Private Eye,

Appreciated that having money tree decorations, every day, would possibly cause a run on the banks but this was a one-off for April Fools day. Oxford has a reputation for eccentrics and as a one-man-band, I can't rely on teams of party faithful to put out a message to vote Loony on May 22.

Setting up a new business does also require a lot of publicity to get known and heard about and if you'd rather, I just sign on at the dole queue and subsidise me, that's your call. However, I believe Mad Hatter can contribute something in Oxford and be a platform for a protest vote too.

I can relate to the first comment made about the bike signs but what I would like to emphasise is why the bikes are even there at all. The reasons are simple and they would not need to be there is the council stopped undermining small traders like myself who are enterprising spirits trying to generate a livelihood and create opportunities. So let me explain:

(1) The Oxford Visitor (Mis)Information Centre on Broad Street which is funded approx £300,000 p.a. with public money does NOT offer an impartial service and it does not act even remotely in the interest of supporting or representing tour operators like myself (Mad Hatter). Instead, it has an agenda to undermine businesses like mine and to sell its own selected so-called 'Official Oxford Walking Tour'.

As the visitor centre refuses to deliver its function in a fair way and as the council which funds it rubs its hands off responsibility for how the visitor centre and its website deliver said service, we get SHUT OUT and therefore you see the bike adverts. At least they add colour and an Oxford theme to visitors and shoppers in Oxford centre.

I invite everyone passing by the visitor centre, to notice the fact that the visitor centre puts out a sign board only for one tour (the official tour) and its shop window, its door, when closed, plus its counter only advertise that same one tour. I also invite you to step inside and pretend to be interested in visiting Oxford and ask about walking tours. You will almost always only ever hear of one tour- that official tour.

(2) The Highways department of the council is VERY unpopular with many city centre traders as they keep confiscating traders' signage and this includes traders who do have premises like cafes which are down side streets and naturally want to advertise on their corners with busier streets (streets where the council or the university charges exorbitant rents).

In addition, the highways department which is so vigilant to remove traders signs -often from outside their own shopfront- has refused to remove the sign from outside the visitor centre, which is a sign advert for a business that (supposedly) is independently run by the guild of guides. As mentioned, the visitor centre only advertises one tour outside. EVERY DAY, that the sign goes out and visitors walk inside and ask about 'walking tours', they simply get booked onto the visitor centre's choice of tour. Meanwhile, businesses like mine cannot leave a sign board unsupervised on street in that same spot as the council highways department will confiscate it.

What does this mean? Its double standards and it directly undermines small traders like myself. I apologise if some people don't like the presence of bike signs but if you feel they are an eye sore, then the solution is simple- get the council and the visitor centre to fulfil their responsibility and stop undermining traders.
Dear New Private Eye, Appreciated that having money tree decorations, every day, would possibly cause a run on the banks but this was a one-off for April Fools day. Oxford has a reputation for eccentrics and as a one-man-band, I can't rely on teams of party faithful to put out a message to vote Loony on May 22. Setting up a new business does also require a lot of publicity to get known and heard about and if you'd rather, I just sign on at the dole queue and subsidise me, that's your call. However, I believe Mad Hatter can contribute something in Oxford and be a platform for a protest vote too. I can relate to the first comment made about the bike signs but what I would like to emphasise is why the bikes are even there at all. The reasons are simple and they would not need to be there is the council stopped undermining small traders like myself who are enterprising spirits trying to generate a livelihood and create opportunities. So let me explain: (1) The Oxford Visitor (Mis)Information Centre on Broad Street which is funded approx £300,000 p.a. with public money does NOT offer an impartial service and it does not act even remotely in the interest of supporting or representing tour operators like myself (Mad Hatter). Instead, it has an agenda to undermine businesses like mine and to sell its own selected so-called 'Official Oxford Walking Tour'. As the visitor centre refuses to deliver its function in a fair way and as the council which funds it rubs its hands off responsibility for how the visitor centre and its website deliver said service, we get SHUT OUT and therefore you see the bike adverts. At least they add colour and an Oxford theme to visitors and shoppers in Oxford centre. I invite everyone passing by the visitor centre, to notice the fact that the visitor centre puts out a sign board only for one tour (the official tour) and its shop window, its door, when closed, plus its counter only advertise that same one tour. I also invite you to step inside and pretend to be interested in visiting Oxford and ask about walking tours. You will almost always only ever hear of one tour- that official tour. (2) The Highways department of the council is VERY unpopular with many city centre traders as they keep confiscating traders' signage and this includes traders who do have premises like cafes which are down side streets and naturally want to advertise on their corners with busier streets (streets where the council or the university charges exorbitant rents). In addition, the highways department which is so vigilant to remove traders signs -often from outside their own shopfront- has refused to remove the sign from outside the visitor centre, which is a sign advert for a business that (supposedly) is independently run by the guild of guides. As mentioned, the visitor centre only advertises one tour outside. EVERY DAY, that the sign goes out and visitors walk inside and ask about 'walking tours', they simply get booked onto the visitor centre's choice of tour. Meanwhile, businesses like mine cannot leave a sign board unsupervised on street in that same spot as the council highways department will confiscate it. What does this mean? Its double standards and it directly undermines small traders like myself. I apologise if some people don't like the presence of bike signs but if you feel they are an eye sore, then the solution is simple- get the council and the visitor centre to fulfil their responsibility and stop undermining traders. ILoveOxford.com
  • Score: -3

8:38am Thu 10 Apr 14

Geoff Roberts says...

Tony, if you haven't got anything helpful to say then please do us a favour and shut up. Your ego is all consuming, your allegiance to the very council members who caused the conditions you moan about, is sickening. Your comments about students are unacceptable and your bullying approach to discussion is counter productive.
Tony, if you haven't got anything helpful to say then please do us a favour and shut up. Your ego is all consuming, your allegiance to the very council members who caused the conditions you moan about, is sickening. Your comments about students are unacceptable and your bullying approach to discussion is counter productive. Geoff Roberts
  • Score: 1

9:12am Thu 10 Apr 14

Manor Born says...

Well he couldn't ask for better publicity just a few weeks before an election he is standing in. Prior to this hardly anyone had heard of him and even less cared. Of those who had heard of him, they simply thought he was an annoying inconvenience. I suspect most still feel that way, but there will be small pockets of sympathy.

April Fools jokes are meant to be clever, but that doesn't give you carte Blanche to be a nuisance.
Well he couldn't ask for better publicity just a few weeks before an election he is standing in. Prior to this hardly anyone had heard of him and even less cared. Of those who had heard of him, they simply thought he was an annoying inconvenience. I suspect most still feel that way, but there will be small pockets of sympathy. April Fools jokes are meant to be clever, but that doesn't give you carte Blanche to be a nuisance. Manor Born
  • Score: -3

12:17pm Thu 10 Apr 14

oxfordsimon says...

If only the Council were really dedicated to tackling the state of our streets. They went for an easy target here. Yet they seem to be doing NOTHING to deal with the massive increase in graffiti that is blighting our city. They also ignore fly-posting when it was promoting an event hosted at the Town Hall - even though they know exactly who was behind the event and could thus hold them to account. I don't believe the Council does take this issue seriously. Oxford is turning into a dirty place in which to live - and the Council are doing NOTHING to tackle this disorder.
If only the Council were really dedicated to tackling the state of our streets. They went for an easy target here. Yet they seem to be doing NOTHING to deal with the massive increase in graffiti that is blighting our city. They also ignore fly-posting when it was promoting an event hosted at the Town Hall - even though they know exactly who was behind the event and could thus hold them to account. I don't believe the Council does take this issue seriously. Oxford is turning into a dirty place in which to live - and the Council are doing NOTHING to tackle this disorder. oxfordsimon
  • Score: 0

12:45pm Fri 11 Apr 14

lukewarmdog says...

“But if we excused him, we’d have to excuse everyone else who stuck up unauthorised posters, dropped a fag end, a crisp packet, or a plastic bottle.
“Fly-posting and litter spoils the look of Oxford and costs the taxpayer to clear up.”

First of all that "if we did something for someone, we'd have to do that for everyone" is trite nonsense.

Attaching fake money to a tree, temporarily is not fly-posting or littering. I don't see how it spoiled the "look of Oxford" (whatever that is) nor how it cost any money to clear up.

This amusing act of artistic punning is being equated with litter and vandalism to justify a fine. Seems like a petty abuse of power to me.
“But if we excused him, we’d have to excuse everyone else who stuck up unauthorised posters, dropped a fag end, a crisp packet, or a plastic bottle. “Fly-posting and litter spoils the look of Oxford and costs the taxpayer to clear up.” First of all that "if we did something for someone, we'd have to do that for everyone" is trite nonsense. Attaching fake money to a tree, temporarily is not fly-posting or littering. I don't see how it spoiled the "look of Oxford" (whatever that is) nor how it cost any money to clear up. This amusing act of artistic punning is being equated with litter and vandalism to justify a fine. Seems like a petty abuse of power to me. lukewarmdog
  • Score: 3

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