Arts at the Old Fire Station Business Model

Arts at the Old Fire Station Business Model

By Mark Robinson


Discover how an unusual partnership can drive innovation and make your organisation stand out for audiences and funders.

Introducing Arts at the Old Fire Station

Arts at the Old Fire Station (AOFS) is an arts centre in Oxford that opened in 2011. Its programme and activities include a shop, gallery, theatre, studios, cafe and associated activities.

The Old Fire Station, which has a history of periods of arts usage dating back to the 1970s, also contains a centre for training homeless people run by Crisis Skylight Oxford.

AOFS was developed as an organisation and as a venue in partnership with Crisis to bring the building back into full use and to provide education and employment opportunities for homeless people in Oxford. The project was awarded £2.8 million capital funding by the Homes and Communities Agency through its Places of Change programme.

The organisation arose out of a series of opportunities:

  • a building falling into disrepair and disuse
  • the fact that Crisis, having identified the building as a potential home with the City Council, only needed half the potential footage available in the five storey building
  • a groundswell among local people in Oxford in support of an addition to the local cultural offer

As the first and current Director Jeremy Spafford puts it, ‘some quite visionary people took a bit of a punt...’ AOFS was a start-up organisation, which has developed its plans and business model as it has progressed from the ideas stage.

AOFS sees itself as an arts centre rather than a building promoting a number of discrete art forms via various spaces. This is important conceptually to its business model, its Value Proposition and its Customer Segments and how it relates to them.

It is a social space anyone can walk into for any purpose. People have many reasons to come in - to eat, use the toilet, to buy or sell craft in the shop, to get help with homelessness, to go to a show, to develop as an artist. For AOFS it is important that, as Jeremy Spafford puts it, ‘everyone has come to the right place’.

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Arts at the Old Fire Station Business Model (PDF)

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Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2016