On Sunday 19 May 2020, at 10pm, the BBC will screen Life Is A Circus – the documentary about our 2017 Hidden Spire show, Sawdust. The project is just one of the ways we work with the homelesness charity Crisis to bring artists experiencing homelessness together with professional artists.
We asked three Crisis artists to tell us about their experiences here.
When you first arrive at Crisis at OFS as a homeless person you might be reminded as I was, of that first day at a new school. There are so many activities available, choosing which ones to do makes your head spin. But I was lucky that the first class I noticed was Writing a Play, lucky because that’s what I’d been doing for the previous 42 years. So I went along and became part of the team that would eventually create Sawdust and was persuaded to tread the boards for the first time in 40 years.
The atmosphere in the class and around the building was highly creative, supportive and exciting, with ideas flying around non-stop. Also, we were being filmed, but not as I thought for some kind of in house movie, film maker Jo Elliot of Topic films, is a BAFTA winning professional, and Life is a Circus, is a very accomplished piece of work we are all very proud to have been part of. It reflects everything Sawdust came to mean to all of us. For many it was an exciting leap into the unknown, while for me personally it was a powerful reminder of why I chose to work in the theatre all those years ago. The film is entertaining, moving, funny and most of all joyous – not words we normally attach to the issue of homelessness, which is an indication of why the whole project meant so much for us all and why you should definitely watch it!
The Old Fire Station for me is perhaps the real heart of Oxford. Homelessness is a long and miserable journey. The connotations are dire. Your self-confidence takes a tumble.
CSO and AOFS are 2 wonderful charities that collaborate to give homeless and vulnerably housed people the opportunities so long denied to any of us.
I was not involved in Hidden Spire but have been fortunate enough to be a part of other projects that have allowed me to write, collaborate and perform with super talented individuals from a variety of different backgrounds and through this I have grown on the inside and as a person. In terms of worth and confidence and value – all traits that fade out of your reach whilst living a life on the fringes of society. The Old Fire Station gave me a microphone and encouraged me to use my voice.
The Old Fire Station is a unique building that shares its space between Crisis (the homeless charity) and Arts at the Old Fire Station (a public art centre) and includes a Café, shop, theatre, gallery and dance studio.
I came to this space 10 months ago. I was homeless, very low and in need of a shower.
Fast forward to today I feel very privileged. This building has given me so much. I have met so many inspiring people (staff and members). I have rediscovered my sense of self and my love for the arts. I still attend many of the classes, led by very talented and dedicated Crisis staff. Recently I completed the Arts at The Old Fire Station training scheme and I am involved in the latest collaborative project, between Crisis members, the AOFS team and visiting professional photographer Rory Carnegie – ‘Icon’ a photographic exhibition.