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This is the page for 190 Cowley Road.

<< CFE 188 >>

1995: Photographed by Martin Stott

2007 - present

This is the O2 Academy music venue. It sponsored name between 2007 - 2009 was the Carling Academy.

1995 - 2007

The venue was 'The Zodiac' nightclub, and a shop that sold bathrooms.


It was 'The Oxford Venue' but typically referred to as The Venue.


When the Women's Centre stopped running women only discos, I was looking for a suitable replacement venue.  In those days the Lesbian and Gay community was largely hidden because of open prejudice, so the idea of finding an organisation willing to take us was problematic.  However, when I approached the then Education Officer of the Cooperative Society, he readily agreed that myself and Kim Williams could host a mixed Lesbian and Gay disco, provided that we cleared up and out by 11.00 pm  hence the name, Early Gaze Disco!  The disco became a resounding success and the bar was provided by the New Inn, alternating with local charity groups such as Oxford Friend, Rape Crisis and Lesbian Line.  It may interest people to know that our mentor, the Education Officer, was Andrew Smith, who later became our local MP.

After success of the fortnightly disco, the lack of a legal number of toilets, lack of soundproofing and lack of fire escape, meant that the Coop decided to offer the hall up for lease rather than carrying out the necessary works.  I was given the first chance of securing the lease for £11,000, which I could not afford!!  Two young men came forward with necessary funds and plans, and after their work was approved, the Coop Hall was renamed the Venue, and became a Mecca for live bands.


Thomsons Directory 1991 No 196 Fred's Market Hall, No 190 Stripes Pool Club, No 194 Witox Coin Amusements (Oxford)
Thomsons Directoery 1988 No 196 Cowley Road Market Hall

For a short period of time Fred's Discount Store opened a second store covering the emtire ground floor. They sold all manner of things from toys to furniture having taken over from the Green Shield Stamp shop.  This was rather like an Argos Store, where people could redeem books of stamps, collected like vouchers from supermarkets, for articles from kitchen equipment to sports goods.

An advert for disco


 ?1907 - 1979

The building was owned by the Co-operative and was an arcade of shops. Meeting rooms above were used by local political groups for organising. A photo dated October 1979  in Marilyn Yurdan's book The Changing Faces of the Cowley Road has the caption "shortly before it closed".

Kelly's Directory 1920 and 1952 to 1976 Nos 190 to 194 Disco (Oxford & District Co-operative Society Ltd).


An image of the Co-op hall and shops can be seen here.

During the Second World War the hall was used as a Sick Bay. It was staffed by auxiliary Red Cross nurses, and provided care for evacuee children from London who were too unwell to stay with the families in Oxford that they had been billeted on. It also looked after a few Oxford children who had been taken into care by the City Council.

Conveniently, one of the shops at ground level was a Co-op pharnacy.


"The building was designed by Henry Wilkinson Moore and has a long frontage preserving its Edwardian redbrick character above ground floor level, including surviving stone architectural detailing to the façade. The hall above the ground floor shopping arcade provided the venue for concerts and dances that formed an important element of the neighbourhood’s social life and, subsequently has been a venue for the more successful bands that emerged in Oxford in the later 20th century. It has also provided the venue for many political meetings, often forming the starting point for rallies and protests that continued outside the building. The combination of shops developed as a mutual enterprise and the meeting and entertainment space above is interesting as a combination that was a part of the social mission of its builders."[1]

Before then?

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