The world famous author Philip Pullman lives in Oxford and is a great admirer of the canal which he describes in his interview as “ coming into town quietly almost surreptitiously without many people being aware of it; not a great thundering highway but a secretive back street sort of thing and I like that and enjoy it. I also enjoy the history of it.”
Philip talks about the Northern Lights, the first of his Dark Materials trilogy, which begins in Oxford and describes the escapades of Lyra with the ‘Gyptians. These water travellers bear more than a passing resemblance to working boaters as they too use the canals for travel and trade but Philip feels that they were not directly borrowed from local history but resulted from weaving together mythology and traditions.
Although he was at university in Oxford, Philip admits to not being terribly aware of the canal given his studies and other pursuits. However after living, working and writing in the city he talks about his involvement in the community protests that followed the sale of the Jericho boatyard site to developers and his chagrin at the activities of the City Council. Listen to more of this interview with Philip Pullman at the Oxfordshire History Centre.