I think I must be getting old. It really has been such a long time since I ventured out on Oxford Street for a big night out. When I come to think of it, it has also been quite a while since I wandered down the strip during the day. However, last weekend I happened to be travelling that way late on Saturday afternoon and was quite shocked at some of the sights that were obviously just on their way home after what must have been huge nights.
I’ve been reading with interest Maxi Shield’s campaign to “reclaim” Oxford Street. Her column is always entertaining but her passion for this cause is really to be commended. She has been doing a great job of mustering up support from the gay and lesbian community, particularly in a time when the vast majority of punters would much rather lie back and let someone else solve the problem.
There have always been issues with Oxford Street. It is a nightclub area and as such will inherently have particular problems associated with that culture. But I found the sheer messiness of many of the people who were either wandering home or trying to find somewhere else to go extremely confronting. Within a 100m strip I saw four different people vomiting, another person was being carried down the road by two friends and many more appeared to be seriously intoxicated. This was at 2pm.
I have no idea whether these people were gay or straight and it shouldn’t matter. I also don’t know whether they had just walked out of a venue or were trying to get home after a recovery at someone’s home. Regardless of that, these people were in a sorry state and were at great risk of personal injury, or potentially harming others. Apart from the one person who was being carried, the rest were all on their own. Where were there friends? Where were the people who had been partying with them?
There is much talk about the increasing violence on Oxford Street. I had never really seen it until last week when I reached Taylor Square and was verbally attacked by someone who had just been thrown out of a straight venue in the area. He was obviously a clubber and extremely intoxicated. I’m sure there were a lot of other drugs in his system but in my opinion it was the alcohol that was the biggest issue with this young man.
I’m at an age where my partying days are numbered. Evening trips to Oxford Street are going to be few and far between, but that does not mean that I should stop caring about this integral part of the gay and lesbian community. People before us fought hard so that we could have a place to party and we need to ensure that we maintain it the best we can. Allowing violence and messiness to overtake it is something we all need to take responsibility for – the punters, the venues and the wider community.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.