John Ruskin and William Morris are building a utopian Oxford. Johny Frenchman arrives to sell absinthe to Lord Featherstone and Oscar Wilde.
Johnny Frenchman sits on top of the Castle Mound, dreaming of his ideal city, thinking about Ruskin and William Morris, utopian socialism and capitalism, work and leisure, wallpaper and Cary Grant, Van Gogh and Jimi Hendrix, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, Jerome K Jerome and Lewis Carroll. Soon his great great grandfather arrives in the past from France, armed with crates of absinthe, ready to change Oxford for the better.
Oxford Cockaigne presents an alternative history of a utopian Oxford incorporating short parodies of books such as Three Men in A Boat, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit. It is based on two historical events in Oxford: The road that John Ruskin attempts to build with undergraduate labourers including Oscar Wilde and the Cutteslowe Wall that was built across two roads segregating council and private housing in the 1930's and stood for twenty-five years.
Cockaigne is an imaginary land described in medieval literature where "the weather is always temperate, the wine flows freely, sex is readily available and all stay forever young " [from Dreaming of Cockaigne by Herman Pleij].