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Oxford Dance Forum moves into new community art space Old Fire Station

  • Date: 16 November 2011
  • Area: South East
two dancers in black

Sole Rebel Tap, Oxford Dance Forum. Credit: Photo courtesy of Oxford Dance Forum

A refurbished fire station that addresses Oxford’s homelessness and need for art space has become the new home for a Grants for the arts supported dance organisation.

Oxford Dance Forum is embarking on an exciting two-year artist-led development programme called Home-bed following their move into the Old Fire Station on George Street, Oxford. The centre opened to the public on Saturday 5 November.

The Forum’s programme, aimed at benefitting dancers based in Oxfordshire and across the region, is supported with a £67,307 Arts Council England Grants for the arts award and will be officially launched in spring 2012.

Grants for the arts is Arts Council England’s open application funding programme. It invests National Lottery money to support activities that engage people in the arts and help artists and arts organisations with their work. Last year, dance in the south east was supported with a total of £1,166,968 Grants for the arts awards, with awards ranging from £5,000 to £200,000.

The Old Fire Station now houses a social enterprise café, flexible performance space and dance studio, artists’ workshops, a gallery and a shop, selling art and design by emerging and established local artists. With Oxford Dance Forum based there, the centre will also become a new hub for professional dance artists both locally, within the wider region and beyond.

An innovative partnership between Oxford City Council and national homeless charity Crisis led the refurbishment project. They were awarded £2.8 million from Places of Change programme from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to help tackle the challenges of homelessness that the city faces and to provide much needed community arts space in the city centre.  

Oxford Dance Forum’s two-year Home-bed programme aims to provide and generate high quality opportunities for artists and dance organisations by responding to their professional need, most of it delivered from their new home at the Old Fire Station.

The programme has several strands:

  • A series of intensive training workshops of varying lengths, from half a day to a weekend – open to any dancer in the region.
  • A bespoke package of professional development (including access to free dance studio space at the Old Fire Station, mentoring, and development support) for six individual artists per year.
  • One-to-one advice surgeries, (including a focus on artists’ business developmental needs etc)
  • Working with a French aerial company to offer intensive training in aerial work (over a one-week residency period)
  • Working closely with Crisis and the Skylight Centre, who share the same building, to run a pilot project and give homeless people an opportunity to engage in dance, with a longer term aim to create a resident dance company to be based at the Old Fire Station. This project will also identify artists with experience or interest in working with the homeless community in Oxford, to offer training and have a pool of artists who can deliver future training at the centre.

Oxford Dance Forum’s Home-bed programme is also funded by Oxford City Council and is supported by Arts at the Old Fire Station and Pegasus Theatre, an Arts Council England regularly funded organisation.

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, South East Arts Council England, says: ‘We’re delighted to support Oxford Dance Forum’s artist-led programme and their move into the refurbished Old Fire Station through our Grants for the arts scheme. The building is a solid base for supporting dance in the region to develop and flourish locally, regionally and nationally.

‘The programme has the potential to provide vital workforce development, with support, training and mentoring to dance artists. It’s also promising to see Oxford Dance Forum working in partnership with Arts at the Old Fire Station and a range of other organisations including Oxford City Council, Pegasus Theatre and South East Dance.’

Claire Thompson, Dance Development Officer for Oxford City Council and Chair of the Oxford Dance Forum, says, ‘The two-year professional development programme is a significant milestone for both dance and dance artists, in Oxford and beyond.

‘It is an exciting time for artists to be able to embed and develop their practice within the Old Fire Station and for Oxford Dance Forum to have a physical home to base its’ professional development activities. We are extremely grateful to Arts Council England, Oxford City Council and partners related to the project for their support.’

For more information about Oxford Dance Forum, see To find our more about our open-access Grants for the arts scheme, see Follow Arts at the Old Fire Station on Twitter.