Slowly Slowly Cowley Road

Slowly Slowly Cowley Road was a poem commissioned by the Cowley Road Carnival to be part of a mural that celebrates the culture of this vibrant stretch of street.


The mural was painted by talented local artist Andrew Manson (Mani).  Mani is passionate about releasing more public walls and spaces for public art.  Details of his work can be found on his website:

www.thebigorangem.com


The poem was designed site-specifically and points to the culture and heritage of the area. 


As you approach the mural on the wall at the end of Leopold Street from the Cowley side going towards Oxford City you pass the site of the first settlement in the area, that of Bartlemas Chapel, a former leper chapel, which has a remarkable history of welcome to the afflicted and rejected.  The hospital with its chapel was founded by Henry I in 1126 and was rebuilt in 1329.  The hospital had accommodation for twelve lepers and a chaplain and was built in quarantine, well outside the eastern city walls.


Just beyond the mural is the chemist that at one point was one of the biggest dispensers of methadone in the country, just opposite the health centre which was built on the site of the former workhouse.


The poem aims to celebrate the culture of the area which is characterised by tolerance, care, and creativity.  Charities such as Restore which does great work in mental health (as well as providing a beautiful serene garden space) and Asylum Welcome are specifically celebrated as is the general wealth of multiculturalism, and the mural succeeds in saying what a limited word count tried to say, namely that the Cowley Road is a culturally vibrant place with an impressive heritage of musical and other artistic expression.

 

It’s where Jim Thomas and myself started doing Hammer & Tongue gigs in The Brickworks (now The Library) and then The Zodiac back in the noughties, it's where Catweazle has created a stage for a multitude of performances for many years, it's where my band Inflatable Buddha played to many bouncy smiley citizens of the The People's Republic of East Oxford and it's the home of one of the best carnivals in the world. 


I love it, and owe it so much. 


So thanks to Mani for a huge stint of work and for bringing his brilliant visual mind to the piece and to Johannah Aynsley and Cowley Road Works for facilitating it.


It will, hopefully stay there for a few years, I invite you to take a bit of time to sit on the wall opposite and enjoy what Mani has created.


Please feel free to get in touch if you have an idea for a similar work.  The wall is the new stage!                     

                                                                        steve@stevelarkin.com