My Oxford: Euton Daley MBE
As Pegasus Theatre's artistic director, Euton Daley oversaw its £7.5 million renovation before leaving to pursue various theatrical and literary projects of his own. He now works for Oxford City Council as its Arts Development Officer.
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Oxford?
In truth, prior to coming to Oxford my only reference point was that it was home to one of the world’s top universities! I was working at the Royal Court as their Youth and Community Director for their Young People Department when I saw a job advertised at Pegasus Theatre in Magdalen Road, East Oxford. My knowledge of Pegasus was a bit more informed than it was for Oxford. Torn between wanting to remain in London, where things were taking off artistically for me, and a desire to run a venue specifically focused on young people and supporting young artists, the latter was too strong to resist and so I applied. I arrived in Oxford on a sunny day in June 1990 for my interview and as the bus passed through the high street I was intimidated by the place. So much so that I recall travelling back from Oxford really wanting the job but not sure whether I could live here – Oxford wasn’t for me, I thought at the time. Anyway, I was offered it, took it and I’m still here 25 years later!
What are your favourite haunts around the city?
I don’t really have one. Having said that, even though I left nearly three years ago, Pegasus is still a place I frequently visit not just because it still holds so many wonderful memories for me, but also because of what it programmes and is still my theatre of choice. One aspect of Oxford is that it is like a secret den. Indeed, I’m still amazed at discovering new crevices and hideaways beyond walls of the city as I visit different places within the university for meetings and events.
What to you are the most iconic aspects of Oxford?
Cowley Road Carnival (and before that it’s various predecessors). The first weekend in July is one of the first dates pencilled in the diary each year. I’ve worked with and continue to support it.
One wonderful day of reclaiming the street, seeing a vast array of people, young and old, different races/cultures, and beliefs all coming together. But please, please, can we make the day longer – it's far too short! This spectacular should also be branded around the world, alongside Oxford’s "dreaming spires" brand.
Where do you eat and drink?
I’m basically one of those people who prefer the company of family and friends over a home-cooked meal than going out. Nothing beats this, but, when I do go out, my frequent places are all in East Oxford – Aziz, Kazbar, Hi-Lo, Thai Orchard, Magdalen Arms.
What about Oxford has inspired you or helped your creative process?
For a relatively small city, Oxford is full of cultural attractions and activities and this inspires me to want to contribute. Furthermore, knowing that some of the greatest imaginative writers of all time (Tolkien, CS Lewis, Philip Pullman) are part of this rich literary history, together with those people who work in world development who want to make a difference in the world, also provides inspiration. The various parks in and around the city and the river also provide a haven for thinking and switching off. I think the city is blessed with having these green spaces that provide some sanity from the chaos and noise of the modern world.
What’s the worst or least attractive thing about Oxford?
The lack of affordable housing. Plus, what we need more of is a cafe culture, in line with all other major European cities - that would make a huge difference to how we all engage with this city.
Do you have an area, street or village in Oxfordshire that is special to you?
The Cowley Road keeps me sane and rooted whenever I have those cravings for being back in a real city, full of different cultures and nationality existing side by side. My fear is that over the years we are losing more of the independent/small traders and if this trend continues it will lose its unique characteristic.
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