Coronavirus

A letter from our Director

1 April 2020

Hello,

Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the incredible community who rushed to support us when the pandemic hit and we had to close the Old Fire Station. We have so far raised £5000 for our Emergency Fund, lots of ticket holders have refused refunds, and several artists have offered to run benefit events when we re-open. Crisis are also giving us some wonderful support. This, along with all the kind messages, have meant so much to our team. Thank you. 

Although the building is closed, our organisation is very much up and running. We are in the process of looking into the ways the government can support us, and have stopped all unnecessary payments whilst prioritising honouring commitments to artists and freelancers. We are getting better at working remotely and have created lots of ways to keep in touch, share ideas, have fun together and get jobs done.We are actively connected with volunteers, casual staff, core staff, Crisis members and ex-members, artists, shop makers, dance teachers, hirers, donors, friends, funders and partners. 

Our major funders have confirmed that our grants are secure for the time being so this, combined with your support and careful financial management, means that, for now, we are keeping the wolf from the door. This is a huge relief – but we are continuing to work hard to ensure our future is secure.  

Heres what we’re doing: 

Supporting Oxford   

  • We have diverted several members of our skilled team to support our friends at Oxford Hub who are leading the Oxford Together campaign and are helping to coordinate volunteer activity, raise funds, and connect volunteers with people who are elderly, vulnerable or self-isolating. These volunteers will be able to run crucial errands for people who are cut off so they can still get food and prescriptions. Do support Oxford Together if you can by donating here.
  • We are working closely with Oxford City Council to create a community hub to support vulnerable people during the crisis. It will not be open to the public but will be a base for workers and volunteers and a delivery drop off point. 
  • We are working with other cultural organisations to find ways to support freelance artists.
  • We are part of several interagency groups sharing information and ideas about best ways to sustain our organisations, support vulnerable people and collaborate. 
  • We are keeping in touch with Crisis who are undertaking a huge task of trying to provide remote support to people who are desperate, and are working with other agencies to reach out to people sleeping rough, supporting the City Council in their efforts to get all rough sleepers and hostel residents into hotel and student accommodation. 

Making plans 

  • ICON Tour – we have started looking at a bold ICON tour for next year and want to start putting things in place once it is appropriate and possible.
  • Marmalade was due to happen this week. We plan to come back with a brilliant Marmalade in April 2021. 
  • Christmas – our proposed show will not happen so we are now looking at alternative ways of celebrating with local artists.  
  • Offbeat 2020 is postponed until 2021, when you’ll be able to see the fantastic programme of events that was due to take place in June.
  • Here and Now – Aaron Williamson’s Slangon Market Stall, a live art project to create a fictional sign language, is postponed but will happen when we’re back in the building. 
  • Hidden Spire, our theatre collaboration with Crisis, will happen but we don’t yet know when. In the meantime, you can now watch the documentary Life Is A Circus about the last Hidden Spire project for free.

Staying creative 

  • We are already offering plays and other links to watch online, as well as the Life is a Circus film. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter channels. 
  • We are working with Oxford Playhouse and other theatres across the county to try and coordinate online offers and possibly commission small pieces of work that can be offered digitally. 
  • We are also working with visual artists to come up with small interactive projects.  

Looking ahead 

Although we know we will survive in the short term, our financial position next year and the year after is uncertain. It is essential that we do all we can to build community support now to be able not just to survive, but to make a big powerful contribution to the life of the city over the coming years.  

There is so much we can all learn from this. We are working on what kind of organisation we want to be in the future. We will hold onto the brilliant generosity and kindness that so many people have shown over the past two weeks, wwill learn from the inspirational organisations and people who are emerging in this crisis, and we will commit to helping Oxford recover by bringing people of all backgrounds together to learn, celebrate, share and create. 

We do still need the support of the people who care about us. If you believe in the work we are doing to support Oxford right now, please scroll down to give whatever you can. 

I hope you and yours remain safe and well.

Very best wishes to you all and thank you. 

Jeremy Spafford
Director, Arts at the Old Fire Station