Oxford Road Chronicles

Oxford Road Chronicles is a specially recorded podcast by UNTOLD, where they explore and discuss their own experiences of living and growing up on the Oxford Road and what the road means to them.

Listen to the audio recording here or scroll down to read highlights from the podcast!

Oxford Road Chronicles

The UNTOLD team: LTR Symiah, Serena, Shreeya, Nieema

What is Untold?

'UNTOLD is a platform for sharing stories - our own, yours, and those of people who don’t have a voice. The world is becoming more and more divided, but we cannot underestimate the similarity of our experiences and how these can bring us together.​

We are here to shed light on issues that people are often silent about, and be unedited, unfiltered and unapologetic in our approach to discussing them. Join us on this journey'.

Transcript highlights


Yeah, as you said, I lived in Oxford Road for my whole life. Just off the Oxford Road and I will always consider it home. And I think it's got a unique place in my heart because there's loads of positives about the road, I feel so comfortable at home. I love walking down the street hearing in different languages, trying different foods. It's amazing place in that sense. However, I grew up before the Oxford Road was slightly more gentrified, where there was a lot of prostitutes and drugs around. And yeah, it's given way to a lot of different stories. And yeah, and yeah. Interesting road.


And I think we should have been told to have avoided Oxford Road more than Whitley, my, like my very first couple of weeks of being here. A van was set on fire just outside of our house. And the police knocked on our door to let us know of a crime that had happened that was like being investigated locally. And obviously there's that infamous place on Oxford Road called 613 Oxford Road. And it doesn't say it anymore. But at one point it used to say no appointment necessary, like just in big bold writing. And across like, yeah, the shop or whatever it was. And I remember like I used to always go down the Oxford Road, I would walk past it or be on the bus and like drive past that shop. And just always think, like, what is that? Like? It says no appointment necessary? Like what could that possibly be? And I can’t remember how old I was, I think I was like 15 or 16 when the penny finally dropped that it was a brothel. And so that's one of my most vivid memories of Oxford Road because it was like a it was like a light bulb moment. I was like ah.


I just used to associate it with after church going to buy African food African shops and get my hair done. Like I just remember it being so bad as well like on a Saturday you go to the hair shop get your hair done seeing all these people. When you're done, you're just looking fresh and terrible. But yeah, like I just associate it with like food, Hairdresser. But obviously like you guys said, the whole like prostitution, drugs obviously, that comes to mind, as well.


You know what's crazy? I feel like I've just not lived. I'm just not got the same life as you guys have. Because I just thought it reminded me very much of an Asian place like, I went to Oxford Road, nothing when I first went to South it was like, oh, they both remind me of Nepal. Because it's just so, so bubbly. And so, like, just things are just so close together. And I don't know, quite lively. I'd say there's always something happening. I first went there when I was 12. I don’t know why. And then after that it was to tutor somebody, like, close to somebody who lived off the road. So, my memories are just going off this number 17 at Oxford Road, and then go to tutor somebody and then going back. But apart from that, I don't really think I have, I definitely didn't see the brothel pace. I will check it out when I go next time. But yeah, I do think that it has become more gentrified. 100% it doesn't have the same, same vibe anymore. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing.


It's definitely more gentrified, and it's lost it’s, it's feeling, it's touch. Yeah, it, I personally enjoyed it. Because there was a lot, I feel like it allowed everyone to learn about each other's cultures. And if you ever want to see a perfect example of what multicultural, multiple faith communities look like, I think it is the place and is a very good place to show it because everyone gets along. It's very successful. And I think that gentrification is leading way to more segregation between the communities.


I think when, when it was the Oxford Road. I was, how do I put this, when the Oxford Road was so vastly different to the other parts of reading. It became an us, you know, you wouldn’t’ just say I am from reading I would say I’m from Oxford Road because there was such an us about it.


It does kind of feel like London, it has got a very London feel to it. If you look at most of the streets in London, the back streets, not the main streets like Oxford Circus, and that, but it's got a very London feel towards it. But um, yeah, now with all the gentrification going on, and it's emerging into what Reading is. And you know, there are some positives and some disadvantages, but, that community feel is no longer, It's not as tight knit.


I do, it's almost like you should be proud to be living there because it was madness. Like, for lack of a better word, like this ghetto area. And that, I guess, wasn't as one of the nicer areas. So, I used to claim Tilehurst instead. But now, if I still lived there, or I moved back, I would just say Oxford Road, right? Like, I don't care anymore, and not because I think it's getting more gentrified, but I actually appreciate the multiculturalism of it all like when you think of something that you need in terms of like from the culture like you will go to Oxford Road, whether it be hair, whether it be going to the halal butchers and getting me and like all of that sort of stuff that’s nowhere else in reading in my eyes anyway that you can really go for that. And so now I'm quite proud and I think of you know, like being with my friends walking down Oxford Road and wanting like a midnight snack as we got older like teenagers and like walk into Mr. Cod. And I like those sorts of things and because Oxford Road is quite like you could walk down there in like 25 minutes but there's so much on that one road and that it will be such an adventure


Yeah, it's almost like traveling the world on one road. And like you'll hear so many different languages and have samples of so many different foods it's yeah, it's amazing there's not many other streets you can walk down and hear Turkish Polish Portuguese literally back to back. Your typical British pub that is on the street as well and the mosque right not too far you know so this is really what Britain should be moving towards - The Oxford Road


I was going to say another thing about Oxford Road, right is that I felt like at one point in teenage years, it used to be like a place to hang out. Because I remember people talking about like Kenny and all those parks down the people just go like to drink and all that. It was like a hangout


No, the accessibility was a madness I live opposite where I had three buses obviously 15, 16, 17. And now the 15A my god. Anyhow, I also had the train station from Reading West. So anytime I can literally meet someone in town, it takes me three minutes by the train. And if I wanted to walk, it was a 20-minute walk in.


Yeah, so I think in terms of accessibility and convenience, for like what it's like to live. I personally will probably give it like an eight or nine. But I feel like if you were to ask my parents, they might give it less just because they would rather a less exposed area for like young children to grow up in. I think that would be the only reason, but I think as like a young person, its actually calm line is your children. I think of Oxford Road is like the backroom of reading.


Yeah, for me, and I think maybe 8 just because there were some points where you would walk down Oxford Road and get harassed. If you're on your own. Especially at night, Yeah. And yeah, so there's that reason, why it's like you know, but other than that, definitely vibes you can't deny it


Yeah, like I don't I don't like now, because obviously you guys know I like my long walks. And I can walk to Oxford Road from where I am now. And like half an hour and sometimes Yeah. Yeah, so I'll go for like late night walks and I don’t feel like threatened. I feel like you know this is reading. Like as although people like to say the most talks about like, what is the worst that can really happen? I'm not. I don't know if that's just because I'm familiar with it. Like you said to me, so like, I'll know maybe what streets are not even, like, turn my neck and look at all I need and like where all the lights are, and stuff and I know how far away certain points are. You know what I mean? So, because I'm just so familiar with it, maybe that's why, but as much as people go on about, like, you know, Oxford Road this Oxford Road that like, I don't think it's that dangerous.


because do you know what I can't comprehend, growing up anywhere else? I couldn't I couldn't comprehend any other lifestyle to this. I couldn't comprehend not having the accessibility as I do. I lived in the countryside for a very short amount of time. Yeah. And it was a terrific. And when they only had two shops in the village, I said, I can't comprehend because I walk up the street and there's 50. I didn't understand. Yeah. When I see the rest of the world, I gave to give it a 10.


Yeah, but also like, I just think, thinking of it from a perspective from like, my little brothers, obviously, they're like considerably younger than me like 10 and 11. And I don't know, like, I can't help but have them in mind. And definitely like it, although like, I hate where my mom was based now. Because it's like, it's so inconvenient, it's not accessible at all the buses come like once every hour, it's so much safer for them to grow up as children and like, just have fun, and my mom doesn't worry about them going out to play. Like when I was that age, I couldn't go too far from the house. Whereas they actually almost have a bit more freedom and free rein. And just by the fact that there's no like massive main roads near the house. Whereas like Oxford Road, although there's so much culture and there's so much like different shops and different languages and all that stuff is amazing. It is actually like one big main road. So, in terms of like kids, and it's not the most ideal thing, I would say.


I probably wouldn't live there if I had the choice. But yeah, like now I’m in Tilehurst. It’s convenient in terms of like, hair and stuff. But yeah, I'd say six, seven. Yeah, very convenient. Even like going home after a night out. That's one thing I've got to mention. I used to love the fact that I could easily not have to pay for taxi after a night out because the 17 would run until like 4am. And yeah, and so it was like so easy to get home. And if it was in summer and it was like warm, you would just walk with your friends if you were like you know, I mean if you're all going to one place. I forgot the carnival as well the Carnival went through the whole of Oxford Road as well. It was it was a staple of that sort of culture in celebration when reading used to do carnivals. Obviously, they haven't for the last few years. Slight shade. But yeah, so there's so much I think, I think everybody like, considering it's just a road. Like it's not even an area like you know, in Reading, we have Whitley we have Tilehurst, we have Southcote we've got Calcot we've got all these different areas. Oxford Road has made a name for itself. Right?