Personally, when I heard the news that Cellar was set to close down, I thought that, despite the campaign, that would be the end of it. The council never listens to what people have to say, right?
It’s fair to say I was mistaken. Cellar has been saved and although it’s not the greatest victory, it should teach us something about the power our voices have.I can hear the complaints: quibbling over the closure of a nightclub is certainly a rather bourgeois and self-indulgent thing to worry about. People are dying from a lack of basic needs, unnecessary war, brutal oppression, and the want of a safe place to call home. The world stands on the precipice of nuclear or environmental disaster and society appears to be arranging in a way such that the super rich survive and the super poor die. Meanwhile, Cellar is just a hipster club full of poseurs: why should we care about it?
Of course, I agree that we need to consider our priorities. We certainly shouldn’t care about Cellar and forget about everything else. The Cellar campaign could – and should – help people become more aware of what they can do.
I am not saying that those who campaigned to save Cellar can now take those skills and solve the menagerie of issues that plague the world, but it’s a start. No justices were achieved from the top down. It takes small changes in each small town.
Looking at the city of Oxford, the campaigning force, now aware of the voice it have in local community, can make a start in combatting injustice at a local level. It can campaign to end the unfair laws and fines placed on the homeless, intended simply as an excuse to evict them.
It can campaign to increase the building of affordable housing – combatting the campaigns of greenfield-living NIMBYs, who, in their self-interests, have artificially driven up house prices, resulting in the effective social cleansing of the city.
It can campaign for greater pedestrianisation of Oxford, improving air quality in the city and making it more peaceful for cyclists and walkers to travel.
Obviously, solving problems in Oxford won’t solve all the problems in the world. There are limits on the impact that a group of students can have, and our expectations should be kept in check.
But, if Oxford can look to itself as a city of justice, fairness, and an example to all, then it can help inspire improvements in other cities around the world: coming together through the medium of music to save Cellar is just the first step.