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The Headington Shark at Headington Oxford

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by Praneel Lal (subscribe)
'I'm a foodie, fashionista and freelance copywriter. Follow me on twitter and instagram @neelsmcgee email on praneel_lal@hotmail.com'
Published April 18th 2015
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it is a flying shark
Oxford is home to many landmarks, Oxford University, Pitt Rivers Museum and the Sheldonian Theatre just to name a few. One that doesn't get too much press, but is definitely one to see is The Headington Shark, which is a short walk from the main epicentre of Oxford.

The Headington Shark as you may have guessed, centres around a shark. This shark is petruding out of the roof of number 2 New High Street in Headington, Oxford and can definitely be seen a long distance away.


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Comical Picture @ The Headington Shark (photo @neelsmcgee)



The shark first graced the roof of the Oxford property in August 1986, whereby the owner at the time, a local radio presenter named Bill Heine, decided to create the art piece (if you could call it that) to showcase impotence, anger and desperation due to the events of the past and the era such as Chernobyl, Nagasaki, nuclear power and CND. It's presence was to also highlight to the masses that a fear of the use of nuclear bases, submarines and weaponry was still so apparent (and still is), in a sense it was said by locals that the shark portrays a beautiful but potentially lethal missile.

The sculpture is said to weigh 200kg is 25 feet long and is made of painted fibreglass. You would think a piece like this would have a riveting title but it is simply called 'Untitled 1986' which is written on the gate of the house it adorns.

In fitting with Heine's theme, the fixture was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The shark was designed by sculptor John Buckley, famous for such works as Pagliaccio, which was exhibited in 1976 at the Washington Art Fair by Nicholas Treadwell.

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Comical Picture @ The Headington Shark (photo @neelsmcgee)



Over 21 years later the sculpture still stands, it was renovated in August 2007 by Buckley due to complaints from residents regarding the conditions of the house and the shark.

As you can imagine there was controversy implementing such a spectacle in the conservative city of Oxfordshire. The local council tried everything to have the shark taken down complaining about it being a safety concern, but as you can imagine with negative media there was also a strong local support sculpture. The fight against the shark was eventually taken to central government where the minister of the environment at the time, Tony Baldry, ruled the shark could stay as it did not result in any harm to the visual amenity.

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Comical Picture @ The Headington Shark (photo @neelsmcgee)


With new owners in the property and John Buckley long gone, this is definitely a little piece of history for the town. My partner and I decided to make the trek through the local parks and over to New High Street to check out the shark for ourselves and we definitely had a blast taking some standard comical photos centred around the piece.

If you find yourself in Oxford, take a little stroll to Headington and take your own snapshots of a timeless little classic of the towns history.

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Comical Picture @ The Headington Shark (photo @neelsmcgee)
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Why? A little piece of history
When: Anytime, day time is best to see the shark
Phone: NA stephanie.jenkins@gmail.com
Where: 2 New High Street, Headington, Oxford, England,
Cost: Free
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