Arts at the Old Fire Station

Amount Given:

£200,000 over four years (grant made in 2016)


Art with a social impact


photo credit James Sutton

Alison Holdom,

Grant Manager, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


This is our second grant to Arts at the Old Fire Station, an organisation that is taking a pioneering approach to the use of inclusive cultural space, while developing a strong cross-arts programme and engaging with people who are marginalised and isolated. Arts at the Old Fire Station are testing and developing a new way of working, aiming to provide high-quality provision and support for people who engage with the organisation on any level. The organisation is also strong on dissemination and learning, enabling the lessons from its work to be shared broadly.

Jeremy Spafford,

Director, Arts at the Old Fire Station



credit Josh Tomalin

The value of the arts and humanities is being questioned, homelessness is rising and draconian cuts to local housing and support services are coming into play. It is therefore more important than ever that cultural organisations optimistically promote great contemporary work, engage seriously with ways of including people who are marginalised and isolated, and forge innovative partnerships to deliver exciting, inspiring work.

People facing severe disadvantage are often defined by their problems and excluded from ‘ordinary’ public life. We have a vibrant public professional arts centre and the opportunity to include people facing tough times as audience, as trainees, as volunteers, as artists and as employees.

We want to widen and deepen participation, and pursue creative ways of evaluating impact. Crucially we want to enable people from diverse backgrounds to choose their own labels. We understand that our direct impact will be limited by our size but we believe we are exploring new ways of creating inclusive public space which can have an impact on how the cultural sector engages with civic society that has national implications.

Mo Kaudeer,

Service User


Arts at the Old Fire Station has helped me with good ethics and values. I felt I have learnt a lot and feel part of a team and a community of people that have helped me build my confidence.

Working within a dedicated team of people has boosted my confidence, helping me in my communication skills.

I felt part of the Old Fire Station community spirit. The training has boosted my confidence in dealing with people and customers while focusing on good practice and respect. As a trainee, I was surprised with the level of care and attention I received.

Dealing with data and advertising, I have noticed there is a lot of positive community work going on at the Arts at Old Fire Station. This is having positive impacts on the larger local community with shows, theatre, arts and events. As a homeless person doing this training, I feel very welcome at the Old Fire Station.