Bicester was always a quiet town, somehow bordering on genteel despite the nature of calm rebellion installed by the teenagers of the area, the hush of anarchy that was forever blowing in their veins but somehow never getting beyond the point where the small population was ever worried that life was not somehow a picturesque version of some Famous Five novel. Sure there was a riot in the town but comparing that to the big cities, judging against history is like weighing up the difference between an oak and a sapling.
The trouble always was, especially in the 80s, there was nothing for the teenagers to do, to get their kicks, to spread any type of artistic thought or gather up the possibility of being introduced to something radical and life affirming, even just to have a good time and dance the night away, many would sneak off into Oxford, take a trip up to Banbury, or for the more adventurous, London and Birmingham would call, the train station of Bicester North being an escape route out of the town, a contrast in which the rock or pop fan could indulge in their musical appreciation, their cinematic desires or even just fade into the world with the face of the anonymous insured.
The sleepy town outside of Oxford was safe, secure and for many teenagers in the 80s, dull, it was a home, a place of security that perhaps only become an anchor in later life. The genuine thrill of seeing a punk walk down Sheep Street was an event to want to emulate, the stirrings of a band passing through, diverted no doubt but one to savour, all too much for the heart of the town that had become lost itself, sleepy, an English Brigadoon but one at least the teenagers of the town in the 80s could escape from to be themselves.
The 80s, a time when cities like Birmingham and Liverpool were buzzing, they were in the news, for good or for ill, London was always calling, but for teenagers in the town, the closest the got to the colour and the escape of the beige and the grey that the 70s provided was perhaps at the school disco at the end of year, the clash of cultures that paraded between Cooper and Bicester School and the groan of adults and the fear of those who had survived the war and couldn’t understand that the teenager needed expression, that the town needed a shot in the arm before it was too late; this was the problem; a beautiful town, one nestled in security but one that was undoubtedly boring, dependable, trustworthy but never seizing the moment to be, just once, outrageous and complete.
It might not have been the true explosion of anarchy, the sweat and drive of a big festival, the pound of a big name 80s group that shook the natural charm of Garth Park on the August bank holiday in 2016, but the 80s were celebrated and wonderfully so well attended as Rewind to the 80s became a gathering, a social surprise in which the community of the town were treated to music from the period and the dance, the classic tunes performed, this was heaven, 30 years in the making, 30 years to get to this point and whilst many might not see it, it was the moment hopefully that the people of Bicester were given chance to take back their town from the corporate greed that has invaded the natural innocence and the government plans to increase the country town to that of a garden city.
All Bicester needed was entertainment in the 80s, a place where the teenagers could appreciate home and be immersed into a place where music was allowed to breathe without having to listen to one of the many juke boxes in the pubs, a place where a band might come, where inspiration might hold for a while or at least spark the interest of those whose own tune was to love where they lived but who needed an escape. The 80s night put on in Garth Park was one in which part of the town revelled in. It was impossible to escape the faces of the children glowing as they watched both the adults dancing and the scenes on the stage. Sure it wasn’t the likes of The Human League, Blancmange, Heaven 17, Prince, Duran Duran, Deacon Blue or even one of the top bands of the time who started out in the small time frozen land, Marillion, but this was something to the time displaced traveller to remember and understand that this could have all been so different, so much more interesting in a time when colour was appearing everywhere.
Bicester is a wildly different place to the days of the 80s, there are bands that do play with regularity in the pubs, they are appreciated and they are thankfully local. What the 80s night showed perfectly is that the town may have its cinema now, that there is an air of electric vibrancy to be warmed by, but the job started by this night and the local band evening at the start of the month, but a purpose built gig venue is the next step for a town no longer troubled by the Brigadoon mist.
A genuinely great evening in the town, a landmark in the history of the place that nestles in Oxford’s shadow, Bicester celebrated the 80s in style with a huge smile on its face and the glimpse of many ra-ra skirts and the abundance of leg warmers. Bicester has changed, it can only hope that it continues evolving without losing its heart to expansion.
Ian D. Hall