March 23, 2018
Looking for Middle Earth? Head towards Oxford and take a right at the roundabout towards Wallingford. No eagles necessary.
by Nikki Griffiths
“Excuse me, do you know the way to Narnia?”
“Sure, you want to keep on going up the motorway and just follow the signs to Didcot power station. You can’t miss it.”
Literary vandalism has been plaguing the borough of Oxfordshire in England. Road signs along the A4130 to Didcot were cunningly altered to direct drivers to Narnia, Middle Earth, Gotham City, Neverland, and the Emerald City.
Someone from the beautiful town of #Didcot updated their road #signage. I'm very impressed with how well finished it looks, aligned correctly, cap height and font are correct, using the right material or at least a VERY close match. You really have to search for the additions. pic.twitter.com/iq8C2dr0J2
— Signet Signs Limited (@SignetSignsLtd) March 20, 2018
The plucky prankster started brazenly altering the signs in broad daylight on 19th March. He (for, indeed, he is reportedly a man) has since anonymously taken responsibility for the modifications, telling BBC Radio Oxford, as reported by the Oxford Mail:
“I’m an artist. I’m not a vandal. I never intended to create any form of vandalism, purely a spectacle for people to remember. To destroy someone else’s property, that was never my intention. My intention was to create and build on something positive.”
Didcot has been described as “the most normal town” in England, according to data scientists. Looking at key indicators including age, etncitiy, property ownership, employment, and political engagement it was deduced Didcot is the perfect median when it comes to mirroring English national demographics and opinion.
The mayor of Didcot, Jackie Billington, told the BBC she thought the signs would make people smile and alter the image of the town: “It proves yet again, that Didcot is more than just a ‘normal’ town, it’s quite quirky now with the new signage.”
But she also told Tom Williams at the Oxford Times:
“I’m concerned that a tourist could be driving around for hours trying to find Gotham City… You can’t tell the difference, they are exactly the same font and look like any other normal street sign. Some one has obviously gone to a lot of trouble.”
If some numpty spends hours trying to find Batman, I say let ’em.
Oxfordshire residents have embraced their new signage. A poll run by the Oxford Mail found the that eighty-eight percent of readers wanted the directions to stay. However, the county council did not feel the same away and, alas, the signs have just been removed. A spokesperson told the BBC:
“They had to come off… We have to take a tough line on unauthorised signage as there is good evidence drivers do get distracted. Safety is an absolute priority.”
This may not be the last we hear of the sign-master though: he told the BBC he had been making “‘creative interventions’ all over the country for about 20 years under various pseudonyms… Other place names he said he considered adding were Bikini Bottom, from cartoon Spongebob Squarepants, and the Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh.”
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.