Pembroke graduate's successful 'Uncomfortable Oxford' walking tour at The Oxford Ideas Festival


The Oxford Ideas Festival (12th – 22nd October 18) featured Pembroke graduate student Olivia Durand taking to the streets to raise ‘uncomfortable’ issues around the history of Oxford. Olivia, a 3rd year DPhil student in History, initiated a project alongside New College’s Paula Larsson (also DPhil History), to research and create a walking tour examining the histories of colonialism, imperialism, and inequality throughout the city. The result was a two-hour walking tour provided every day of the festival, entitled ‘Uncomfortable Oxford’.

Despite being confident in their project, both Olivia and Paula were surprised and delighted by the turnout.  By the end of their 11 day run, numbers had risen to nearly 80 per tour.  Olivia says: We did not actively promote this project to the University because we wanted larger portions of the public to be involved, and it was incredible to have such a spontaneous turn-out. The word-of-mouth worked fast!

Paula added: I think that it just goes to show how much of an appetite there is for this kind of conversation in the city. We were so rewarded to see not only academics in this project- but engagement from the locals in the city, as well as tourists.

One of the walkers commented: ‘As a resident of Oxford I usually avoid walking tours, but this one was interesting and made me think – thank you.’

Olivia and Paula accepted voluntary donations, raising £750 overall, which has been donated to Homeless Oxfordshire (formerly Oxford Homeless Pathways).  They now plan to take the project further by expanding the tour content and making it a permanent addition to the Oxford landscape.