Like many others, I’ve been thinking about the past year, the impact it has had on us all and what it means for our future. This long-ish message gives you the headlines about what we’ve been up to, what we’ve been thinking about and what we have planned.
It also announces big changes to our shop and café in the building.
Obviously, things have been very tough for a lot of people and many of our friends in the cultural sector have had a particularly hard time. I’m pleased to say that none of our team has had a serious health problem and, as an organisation, we are also fit and healthy and keen to welcome you back to the Old Fire Station. I am very grateful that we have come through this period relatively unscathed and full of optimism for the future despite the challenges.
The last 12 months, in a nutshell
- We started the pandemic by teaming up with Oxford Hub to support #OxfordTogether
- Made a brand new, glittering programme of Digital Theatre
- Became proud members of the Oxford Cultural Anti-Racism Alliance
- Created Postcards From A Pandemic, an artistic pen-pal scheme across the country
- Paid 12 artists £500 to create a new art in Lights Up
- Brought the Hidden Spire Creative Collective together to write, draw and create (visit www.hiddenspire.co.uk to join in!)
- We were a part of Photo Oxford festival and Oxford’s Light Festival
- Presented the Shadowlights’ Luminous exhibition
- Ran Theatre Workshops on Zoom
- And much more.
Everything mentioned here is far more complicated (and far more interesting!) than we have time to go into, but if you do want more details, please follow the links or get in touch to ask us more about them.
We have two big moments coming up:
- 12 – 15 April, we’re hosting Marmalade once again – a space for everyone to have intriguing and inspiring conversations about how to build back better.
- 22 – 27 June, Offbeat will be back! It’s a festival of new theatre, comedy, dance and more, in collaboration with Oxford Playhouse. Tickets go on sale in April!
And our Gallery will soon be hosting an exhibition by Phillipa James and the women’s group from Refugee Resource.
Keep scrolling for more on how the last year has changed us and the building.
Our new mission
We’ve been thinking deeply about our purpose as an organisation. Click here to read our new mission statement.
Our plans for 2021
Over the summer, we’ll be opening our doors once again for socially-distanced shows, exhibitions, and some exciting events. All being well, we hope to resume a normal programme in the autumn. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, and ways to invite more people into what we do.
We have some lovely events for your diary, and also some important news about the building:
Sadly, our beautiful Shop will not be re-opening onto Gloucester Green again. The Shop has been a big part of what we do and our welcome to the building. We will miss it. In particular we will miss the artists who sold through our Shop and the customers who loved what was on offer. The shop space (which we are provisionally calling the Upper Gallery) will eventually be a warm and welcoming entrance with lots of potential. We are still figuring out exactly how it will work and we’ll be asking for ideas from people who use the building to tell us how best to make this a creative and inviting space.
The Shop has been a part of our organisation since we opened in 2011 and the good news is that it will be moving to the café (see below) selling a smaller and changing range. And you can still shop online here.
The OFS Café has always been run by Crisis, with a pop-up bar by Arts at the OFS in the evenings. Last year, Crisis decided to close the café permanently. This was such a shame but I can confirm that the Arts team will be taking up the baton and re-opening the café in June. To begin with, we will open for short hours, Wednesday-Saturday, with a small offer of drinks, light refreshment, and some beautiful gifts from our Shop.
We aim to gradually develop and extend over the autumn and end up, in 2022, with a brilliant fully operational café and meeting up space as well as a bar in the evenings. We will be inviting everyone who uses the building to also give us their thoughts and ideas on how to make the most of this space.
The Artists’ Studios
Up on the first floor of our building we have offered hireable space to six artists to create new work in a secure and peaceful environment. We are very sad that we are no longer able to offer this. Crisis, with whom we share our building, are changing their offer to people experiencing homelessness and urgently need more space to meet people on a one-to-one basis. So we are handing over our office on the third floor to the Crisis team, and the Arts team will now be working from the Artists’ Studio space (please note this is not the same as the Dance Studio at the back of the building, which will stay the same). We are sad to say goodbye to the studio artists but plan to work in new ways to support visual artists in Oxford.
We are about to put a smile on the building with new designs by Kati Lacey and Bounce on our windows – and, we hope, a new sign above the Gloucester Green entrance. Let us know what you think, and if you take photos don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @artsattheofs!
Over the next year, we will be bringing back the range of exhibitions and shows which you would expect from us. But we won’t be the same. We will continue to do more online and more outside the building and we’ll be looking for ways to help you be creative in ways that suit you. We will work hard to include people from all backgrounds in everything we do and we will get serious about the challenges we all face around the climate and inequality. And we will create a space for reflection, connection and, crucially, fun.
We couldn’t do any of this without the help and support you give us: our funders, supporters, and friends in the community. Thank you.
Oxford needs the Old Fire Station, and we need you. If you want to help make all of the ambitions above a reality, click here to be our Friend.
See you soon.
Director, Arts at the Old Fire Station