From Prison Tower to One of Oxford’s Trendiest Galleries
Oxford Prison was famous for its starring role in both The Italian Job and the TV series Porridge. When the goal was decommissioned part of it became a Malmaison hotel, quite a lot of it became restaurants and the rest was absorbed into Oxford Castle – Unlocked, a 40 minute “visitor experience”. One small tower that used to be a craftwork room in the days when Oxford still had inmates has become a gallery of contemporary art with particular emphasis on artists with Oxford connections.
The space is small, circular and split on to two levels (presumably so the gaolers could make sure nothing illicit was being fashioned below). Pictures are hung on metal wire that runs from floor to ceiling. The average visit shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes but the gallery represents a pleasant break from shopping or an alternative to meeting in one of the many bars nearby.
Recent exhibitions have included winners of the Cotswold Scene photographic competition, a Summer Show by Rona (the artist who created a monochromatic copy of the famous Bullingdon portrait) and textile art by Amanda Hislop.
The staff tend to be artists themselves and claim O3 is Oxford’s friendliest gallery. It’s certainly been welcoming every time I’ve popped in.