2013 is a truly historic year for Cowley, as celebrations take place to mark 100 years of car making in Oxford.
The anniversary of the Cowley plant was marked by two events: first a big gathering at the Mini plant, where I joined current and former workers, trade unionists, and the Secretary of the State for Transport in a presentation to celebrate the centenary. This was coupled with an exhibition of the models manufactured there across the 100 years. Spectators were also treated to a fly past by a Tiger Moth, which at Cowley was the first aeroplane in Britain produced on a production line.
Good Friday saw the second event, when I was honoured officially to start off the cavalcade of classic Cowley cars across the years, from the BMW plant in Cowley through to Broad Street, where spectators were treated to a showcase of cars spanning the plant's hundred year history. I was fortunate enough to take part in the parade and rode in a Rover 75. Its owner, Nicholas Goldman, was thrilled to have the inside of the car's boot signed by former workers who had actually assembled the car. This whole event was organised with customary efficiency and drive by, Tanya Field, from Headington, who puts in an enormous amount of work to ensure that car making in Cowley receives the celebration it deserves.
It is great to think that cars have been produced in Cowley for a hundred years, making it one of the longest running plants continuously in production in the world. The models taking part in the cavalcade certainly brought back memories for all who saw them, including the many residents who lined the route into Oxford.
The whole centenary is a real tribute to the incredible amount of skill and hard work that has been the hallmark of car manufacturing in Cowley over the last century.
A hundred years later and car manufacturing remains a vital part of the city's economy, having produced a staggering 11 million cars, and employed tens of thousands of people. With the stunning success of the Mini, and more models in the pipeline, we are making a good start on the next 100 years.