IT WAS almost like the man in control of the rain was a fan of May Morning.
Thousands of revellers gathered on Magdalen Bridge in the drizzle yesterday morning ahead of the traditional welcoming of spring.
But just minutes before the choir performed atop Magdalen College’s Great Tower, the rain stopped. And then, once it was all over and students, residents and tourists began to troop off to continue the revelry elsewhere, down came the drizzle again.
Footballing star Martin Keown and his wife Nicola joined in the fun
Yesterday was the fourth year that May Morning had been held with the bridge open to pedestrians. Previously there had been closures to try to stop people jumping into the Cherwell and hurting themselves.
The centuries-old event – which was attended by around 5,000 people – went without a hitch as not a single person attempted to make the jump.
Rose Hill resident Jack Pritchard, 27, went dressed as a traditional Green Man.
He said: “I have been here the last few years and not bothered with the dressing-up so this year I thought I would put a bit of effort in. I come because this is something unique to Oxford and the sort of thing that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
Lindsey Dye, 45, came all the way from Norfolk. She said: “It has got to be done. It is a tradition.
“I love the atmosphere. It feels like the start of the year. We have stayed up all night.”
Two sets of barriers blocked off the sides of the bridge, and were guarded by a line of security guards meaning there was no attempts at jumping into the river.
In 2005 about 40 people were injured after jumping off and the bridge was closed to the public until 2011.
Crowds began to gather at around 4am and by the time the Magdalen College choir began singing the Hymnus Eucharisticus at 6am the bridge was absolutely packed, with cyclists trying to get from one side to the other having to carry their bikes over their heads.
After the crowds greeted the dawn there was a whole host of events across the city centre, including brass bands in High Street and Morris dancing in Radcliffe Square.
Abingdon resident Georgia Tolley, 20, said: “I have been awake all night with my friends. I am having a brilliant time.”
Former Arsenal and England footballer Martin Keown, who grew up and lives in Oxford, was spotted watching the Morris dancers outside the Radcliffe Camera. He said: “I am from the city but I have never come before. I am enjoying it very much.”
Rachel Capell, city events officer at Oxford City Council, said: “We are pleased with how the event went today.
“We have been working hard with our partners – Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue, Magdalen College and Oxfordshire County Council to ensure that the event would be safe for everyone to enjoy.
“Our security team did a great job throughout the morning and it was great to see approximately 5,000 people celebrating the start of spring at this unique and traditional Oxford event.”
Oxford local policing area commander, Supt Christian Bunt, said: “I am pleased to say that there were no problems and no arrests made at the May Day event on Magdalen Bridge and the security operation ran very well.
“I was out on patrol throughout the evening for the night-time economy celebrations and there was a good atmosphere and everyone appeared to be enjoying the festivities.”
Aubrey Bell, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s area manager for Oxfordshire, said: “We are delighted that the event passed without major incident.
“From a medical perspective five people were treated for minor injuries related to May Morning revellery.
“We are extremely grateful that the public heeded our advice not to jump in the river, and would like to thank the volunteers and St John Ambulance Service for assisting.”
A chance to sound off about something
OXFORD residents had the chance to rage against pretty much anything they wanted yesterday.
As part of the May Morning celebrations, Oxford Playhouse and Pegasus Theatre gave people five minutes to address the world on whatever subject they wanted.
A total of 144 speakers took to the soapbox in Broad Street, talking about issues ranging from solar panels to Buddhism.
Some famous faces took to the street to address the assembled masses, including BBC Radio Oxford presenter Bill Heine, Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth and former controller of BBC Radio Four – and now Master of St Peter’s College – Mark Damazer.
East Oxford resident Chris Davis, the treasurer of the local Communist Party branch, spoke about the merits of Communism.
He said: “Today is International Workers’ Day so I was making the case for Communism and its achievements in Oxford, Britain and the world.
“I think Communism has always been relevant because Marxists would say that the failure of capitalism is inevitable and we are always trying to get the message across.”
A wide range of organisations were represented at the event, which ran between 7am and 7pm, including Ruskin College, Refugee Resource and Oxford Spires Academy.
Cowley-based artist Groovy Su, above, took to the box to argue the case for funding community art projects.
She said: “It was fantastic.
“I want to enourage opportunities for diverse groups to come together to share arts and to celebrate.”
Other topics being discussed included the campaign to save Temple Cowley Pools and Oxford car magnate Lord Nuffield.
Street cordoned off after man found injured
POLICE officers cordoned off part of St Clement’s Street yesterday morning after a man was found unconscious in the street.
The incident is believed to have taken place at around 6.45am but police were yesterday unsure whether it was connected to the May Morning celebrations.
Thames Valley Police were called to the scene at around 6.50am and found the man in his early 20s lying in the street near Dawson Street with a bump to his head. The man was taken to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital where it is understood he was conscious and speaking.
Police officers say it is not clear whether the bump was a result of a fall or a fight.