Coronavirus: Oxford May morning celebrations cancelled

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Magdalen CollegeImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Thousands gather in the early hours below the Great Tower in Magdalen College

Traditional celebrations on May morning in Oxford have been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

Oxford City Council and Magdalen College said they had "regrettably" made the decision but were following government advice on mass gatherings.

More than 13,000 people attended the event in 2019.

The annual event celebrating spring dates back centuries and sees crowds congregate outside Magdalen College at 06:00 BST on 1 May.

"While we do not know what the situation will be in May, the emergency services who normally support the event need to be available for priority duties relating to coronavirus," the council said.

"The preparation times for the event mean decisions about the commitment of money and resources need to be made now.

"Given the uncertainty ahead, we have decided that it is prudent to cancel the event which will also mean the resources can be used elsewhere if needed."

Media caption,

What is Oxford's May Morning?

Many believe the origins of the May morning celebration date from around 1505 when the Great Tower at the college was completed and the college chose to sing in the spring.

The event has taken place each year in its current form since the 17th Century when Hymnus Eucharisticus - the song sung by the choir - was written by Benjamin Rogers.

Morris dancing and folk singing are a common sight during the celebrations and several roads in the city centre have to be closed.

Many students choose to stay up all night prior to the celebration and numerous pubs, cafes, and restaurants often open early to provide breakfast and refreshments.

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