For the first time in six years, Magdalen Bridge will be open to the public during Oxford’s traditional May Day celebrations.
The bridge has been closed each May Day since 2005, when around 100 people jumped off it into shallow areas of the River Cherwell. 40 people were injured on this occasion, which the county council said cost the health service around £50,000.
However, despite precautionary measures taken by police in recent years, people have continued to jump from the 25ft-high bridge on May morning. Local residents have also expressed their desire for the bridge to be kept open on May mornings, as its closure divided the city during one of its most famous and idiosyncratic festivals.
Paramedics have voiced their concern at this decision, due to the severe injuries suffered by some who have jumped from the bridge in the past. They estimate that, on average, each incident costs the ambulance service £257.
The police have said that strict security measures will be in place to ensure the safety of those attending the festivities. Police and event stewards will limit access to the bridge, whilst pavements will be kept clear for emergency services.
James Andrewes, a member of Magdalen College Choir, said, “I think it’s great that they’ve reopened the bridge. Last year its closure did nothing more than to stop those on the far side of the bridge from getting close to the singing and the rest of the crowd.
“It didn’t stop people from jumping. From the top of the tower, I could see them just hopping the barriers and jumping off anyway. The jumping is enough of a tradition for people to find a way to do it no matter how much the council tries to stop them.”
Thousands of people are expected to attend Oxford’s May Day celebrations this year, which will include morris men dancing in Radcliffe Square, Broad Street and Catte Street, and a choir singing hymns at dawn from the tower at Magdalen College. Many bars and restaurants will be open for breakfast across the city, whilst events are being held throughout the day at venues such as the Ashmolean Museum and the Oxford Castle.
Oxford Police Commander Supt Amanda Pearson stated, “I would urge people to recognise this decision is one that has been made to further their enjoyment of this unique celebration, and not to abuse it.”