Visitors to the Oxford marvel at the dreaming spires, tour the famous colleges and boat on the river Cherwell. Few venture eastwards beyond "The Plain" (a roundabout) on to the Cowley road.

This is a different Oxford, a multi-cultural mix of people originally from Jamaica, Pakistan, India, Turkey and China. Students flock here for the cheap accomodation and in the evenings they fill the pubs with laddish cheer. An estate agents apt description of the area was "Suitable for the nonconformist".

The best club in Oxford, "The Zodiac", plays host to the best indie and folk bands. Indie Chicks, Goths, death metal purists and classic rock guys can be seen traipsing down this road. It is possible to spot members of Radiohead, Ride and Supergrass hanging around.

However, there is a dark side to Cowley road. In the adjacent Manzil Park, forlorn brokendown alcholics share a sozzled can of homebrew. The discarded needles of heroin addicts litter the churchyard opposite. Shady characters sometimes intimidate passersby late at night. The police have made several significat drug hauls is the surrounding area.

On a brighter note, to walk down Cowley road on a sunny day is an experience to be savoured. Fred's Discount store sells odds and ends like brooms, batteries and buttons. The Polar Bear is a record store which sells CD's at reasonable prices. At the Afro-Carribean center, Jamaican food is served. SS20 is a skater shop selling the latest hoodies. There is a Japanese (Gashi Gashi), Polish and several Indian/Bengali restaurants. There is even a Russian Delicatessan. Oh, and there is the peerless Bodrum kebab shop.

Cowley road may not have polished fifteenth century buildings but it has twenty first century vitality. Live on!

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