How Oxford Open Doors involves young people

Last year a quarter of our visits to Oxford Preservation Trust’s Oxford Open Doors were made by under 24s – that’s around 15,000 visits. It was a big increase from the year before and we think we can put this down to three main factors: social media, the variety of venues and our schools project in partnership with the Museum of Oxford.

© Oxford Preservation Trust - Info stall at Oxford Castle

Oxford is one of those cities where everything seems hidden behind great big doors. But once you get behind these you find yourself in a Harry Potter-like world (quite literally in the case of Christchurch dining hall, Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library, which were all filming locations). Living in Oxford can be really exciting if you have access to these places on a day-to-day basis but if you don’t, it can feel small and exclusive, particularly to those who are growing up in the city.

Very little of the town centre is residential nowadays. During the 20th century, city communities were moved out into “better” accommodation further out and the original buildings were knocked down. Oxford Preservation Trust saved three of the 17th century cottages in the old St Ebbes parish of Oxford, which are now our offices. We always have people coming to look round our garden and remembering what it was like before the 1970s estate, when the area had been classed as ‘slums’. Our projects are always about getting those people and their children and grandchildren back and involved in the city.

Outreach projects

This year, we ran project called "In and Out", which focuses on the fantastic streetscape created by the University of Oxford. We took a group of school children from Blackbird Leys, a suburb of Oxford, to see the ‘Dreaming Spires’ view, visible from our land at Boars Hill. They drew images of the buildings below and were then taken into the city to have special tours round those buildings. This project was designed to engage children with the city by getting to know the individual buildings within it from both afar and close up.

We are also running "City of Dreams & Industries". The project focuses on this year’s Open Doors theme – Industrial Heritage and how it influenced Oxford's development (see my previous blog post on Oxford’s Industrial Heritage to find out more). 

Photo competition

This year, we'd like all Open Doors visitors aged between 16 and 25 to take part in the Oxford Open Doors photography competition. Entrants can win cash prizes provided by Beard, a local construction company, but best of all, the winning photographs will be enlarged and displayed around the city centre! We have three categories: 1. Our Industrial Heritage - from canals, the Jam Factory to breweries; 2. Old and New - Oxford has some of the most famous historic and modern buildings, and it's a chance to explore through photography how these interact with each other and their impact on the city. 3. People - capturing visitors, guides, volunteers, and historic characters. So, if you have teenagers at home, send them a facebook message and invite them on a discovery trip around Oxford - smart phones welcome.