Our manifesto

The Old Fire Station is a centre for creativity in Oxford housing two organisations: the homelessness charity Crisis and Arts at the Old Fire Station (AOFS). We share our building. AOFS encourages people from all backgrounds to understand and shape the world in which we live through stories, creativity and the arts, and by connecting with others. 


What we do 

Produce and present across art forms 

We produce good quality art aimed at adults that takes a risk, asks questions and entertains. We want our audiences to have fun, but we also want to showcase new ideas and voices of different people. 

Help people to be creative 

We want people to be able to write, sing, draw, design, perform, move, make, imagine, play and create. We want people to tell their stories using the medium that works best for them. 

Support artists 

We support early-career artists from all disciplines with advice, networks and promotion to develop their practice as creatives, and as facilitators of others’ creativity. 

Include people facing tough times because of disadvantage 

We offer people who are homeless, socially isolated or disadvantaged space to define themselves and choose their own labels by including them in the running of the centre. We don’t focus on problems, but on what people who face disadvantage can offer. 

Work with communities across Oxford 

Our public space is shared by very different people, breaking down barriers and promoting solidarity in Oxford. We also work beyond our building with different communities to make Oxford a better place to live. 

Oxford is renowned for outstanding heritage and research. It is also a place of disadvantage and inequality. Oxford needs the Old Fire Station because we are about openness, inclusion, and different thinking. We connect sectors, organisations and people. We believe that breaking down barriers is fundamental to ensure creativity for all – and to have fun. 

What we consider in everything we do

Face the Climate Emergency 

This means working with others to  

  • educate ourselves about the emergency,  
  • take practical steps to reduce carbon emissions, 
  • use our creativity to help our community face the challenges ahead. 

Unlearn Discrimination 

This means working with others to  

  • educate ourselves about racism and other forms of discrimination in cultural organisations (especially with regards to disability and class),  
  • take practical steps to become more representative of diverse communities,  
  • use our creativity to explore diverse culture and challenge ignorance or abuse. 

Be human friendly 

This means working with others to 

  • educate ourselves about healthy organisational culture and decision making 
  • take practical steps to develop honest supportive relationships within our team, with our volunteers, our partners and funders and with the public 
  • use our creativity to promote services founded on good quality relationships and learning.  

It also means having fun! 

Experiment and Listen 

To make great art and to achieve change we have to experiment and play.  

This means taking risks, being prepared to fail and being able to adapt and respond. It also means listening carefully to those with whom we work (especially to dissent), reflecting deeply on what we do and how we do it, and measuring impact primarily through storytelling. 

Build financial resilience 

This means ensuring that we are here for the long term by diversifying income streams, securing core and project funding, developing the business, minimising expenditure whilst delivering our mission and maintaining appropriate levels of reserves. It also means ensuring that those we work with are properly paid to help them become financially resilient. 

Our ambition 

We have achieved much in ten years, but there is much yet to be done. Over the next few years, we aim to: 

  • Help more adults from any background to be creative 
  • Offer more accessible, affordable opportunities for everyone to take part in classes, workshops, and creative activities 
  • Co-create high-quality work across artforms with diverse communities and artists 
  • Invite everyone to enjoy our work, welcoming diverse audiences and opening up our building as much as possible 
  • Share power, handing over space and creative control to people with experience of disadvantage  
  • Support under-represented people into the creative industries through advice, volunteering, training, commissioning, and fair access to space 
  • Share stories and amplify voices of the unheard and underserved 

What people say about us 

‘A few years ago, I wouldn’t have really believed that I could have been involved. But slowly, through trying, through doing things, I feel that I can… I really need to do something creatively, to keep myself going. If I don’t, then I just wither. If I’m doing that, even if it’s hard work and all that, I don’t feel depressed.’ 

‘I talked to people, and they said, “Why do you need the arts?” but that’s the bit that makes you a real person, and not a statistic. It’s like being awakened, isn’t it. It’s like you’ve been hibernating for a really long time. And you find that you’re existing. And I think what this offers, it’s like waking up and it’s spring.’ 

‘Vulnerable people, or people with disabilities – they don’t normally get a chance to celebrate what they’ve done’. 

‘We just cannot thank you enough for all the support you have given us over the past 2/3 years… thank you for sticking with us and trusting the company and the work. The last show was quite an important night for us since we had a few guests coming, and we are proud to say they were all blown away. I can’t stress how important it is for us to feel welcome in venues such as The Old Fire Station and I truly hope we will back soon’.