Of course, don’t loose your head in bookish boys and neglect the truly local produce
either. Whatever your taste, most of the action occurs only five minutes’ walk from
the train station. Oxford's oldest gay pub, indeed the oldest gay pub in the UK outside of
London or Brighton, can be found here. It's the Jolly Farmers on the sublimely named
Paradise Street. This is ye olde community hub of a pub in town, where queer locals
of all genders and ages will merrily prattle away the hours, mulling over life and
love or reliving the recent Pride blow-by-blow. Also does good food throughout the
day up until early evening.
Probably time to up the ante pre-club now: so make your faint excuses and flit
outrageously to the arch competitor that is The Castle Tavern, a few doors down on the corner.
You’ll have already heard all the gripes about how this establishment has “gone all London”
and packs ‘em in, mainly men, for the sake of the Pink Pound. But this place certainly
sorts the men from the boys, all spilling out to pose in the streets along its long outdoor
ramps all summer, with the Rainbow Room downstairs open ‘til 2am after hours.
The unofficial cruising ground is the parkland the
other side of the ice rink near Oxpens Road and, incidentally, the site of Oxford Pride, a celebration of lesbian,
gay, bi, trans and queer life in Oxfordshire. The events supporting or arranged by Oxford Pride
promote awareness of LGBT issues by providing information, education and entertainment in a safe
and encouraging environment. Oxford Pride is a membership based non-profit organisation
run by a dedicated team of volunteers. Oxford Pride Parade & Event take place most years in early June and the Festival
itself runs a few days either side of the main parade.
Don't forget to check out Oxford's LGB
Centre, Northgate Hall - on St. Michael’s Street, just five minutes’ walk back in
towards town. This has variously been described as a cross between a church hall and
a school canteen, but no less charming for that. It functions like a club at nights,
playing pure cheese, but has more of an atmosphere where you can actually chat to
your friends or get to know new people if that’s your want. The venue is members-only,
but you can often find a friendly, loose member hanging out near the door happy to
sign you in as guest if you can’t stump up the small fee. It’s boys and girls on a
Thursday and is quite literally the only place to be on a Saturday.
It’s also worth mentioning the Old Fire Station (OFS) on George Street just around
the corner from Northgate. A café-bar by day, OFS hosts the Flirt gay night on
Mondays, which is highly popular - especially with that elusive and much sought-after
dirty stop-out student crowd.