A little bit of magic created in Oxford….

By Dan Channer

The second Sunday in January is a perfect time for Street Wisdom – the streets are empty, our January diaries have space as they recover from December, it is the day before the infamous BLUE MONDAY (Copyright some PR company somewhere) and more than anything we are still mindful of our hopes and dreams for the year ahead.

I went on the Street Wisdom in Leamington a few months ago and thought it would suit my hometown Oxford, a medieval university city 60 miles (100km) west of London. So after a bit of liaison with the wanderful (copyright Street Wisdom!) SW team, we had a plan: 1-4pm on Sunday.

I told those who applied I’d be wearing a lurid yellow hat and fortunately, my poor dress sense attracted all incoming Wisdomers (Streeters?) and we had 8 people assemble on time. Pushing to one side my nerves at hosting for the first time, we dived straight into the warm-up which also acts as an icebreaker. Only 1 of the 8 were from Oxford, otherwise, we had France, Tewkesbury, London, Newbury x2, Wantage. This was refreshing as it meant people could soak up the Oxford streets from a base of little knowledge – a blank canvas.

Everyone jumped into the spirit of the day through the 1 hr tune-up, starting to look at their environment in a slightly different way. Someone said ‘this is a bit odd’ and I applaud that, the purpose is to get out of our comfort zones and absorb the world in a slightly different way.

The middle hour allows people to focus on their question. I didn’t ask the group to share their questions with the whole group, only with one person to make them more real. I wanted to remove the bias of self-consciousness. All questions lead back to personal drivers and this way the team could spend an hour listening to the streets without filtering it for ‘what will the team think of this when I share my experience’.

For the third hour we sat on rickety stools in a hidden, dishevelled café and shared as much or as little as we wanted. The beautiful part of this is that everyone arrived with the right spirit and intent – yes, the discussion becomes slightly abstract and philosophical but that’s okay. Perhaps we need a bit more of that in life.

Some of the comments and learnings which people said:

  • “It’s made me realise I shouldn’t settle for second best in any aspect of my life. I will focus more on quality over quantity.”
  • “I have been hesitating about going for something. I spoke to two groups of strangers, explained my quandary and they both said ‘go for it’ in a joyous way – that really tells me something”
  • “I’m at a career crossroads and I walked into the Ashmolean Museum and started reading a poem called ‘Why are you here?’ – it spoke to me at a deep level and I now know what I need to do”
  • “I was freezing just now, so I bought a pair of gloves and a tag said ‘Volume Minimiser’ – that’s so apt as that’s my problem, I need to create more time for myself and the way to do that is by getting my work/tasks done in less time. I see that now”
  • “I am never on my own but spending most of two hours on my own today has shown me it is nothing to be afraid of and actually I need more of it”
  • “I need to start riding (horses) again – I’ve stopped and I can see it is something I get a lot out of”

Perhaps the last word should go to one of the attendees who emailed the next day:

“A little bit of magic created within a group of 9 complete strangers! Not bad for a dull Sunday afternoon in January.”

by Dan Channer