About Hidden Spire

Hidden Spire brings professional artists and homeless people together to create a performance using music, dance, theatre, visual arts and more. The two groups work together every step of the way and aim to produce an event which will stir, enchant, amuse and intrigue.

Everything from set design, script-writing and front-of-house is done as a collaboration between the artists and clients of national homeless charity Crisis.

Hidden Spire isn’t just a production, it’s a process – it demonstrates the value and potential of having a public arts centre and resources for homeless people in the same building. Most importantly, it shows that excellent art and inclusive art can be the same thing.


Hidden Spire 2017 was Sawdust, a show which imagined life backstage in a circus.

“I live and breathe the circus, got sawdust running through my veins…”
Viva Vintage Circus is falling on hard times. The performers – from Lena the acrobat to Samson the lion tamer and the incredible, impossible Insect Girl – have become their own kind of family, determined to see the bad times out.
What do you do when your way of life is crumbling, and you don’t have enough money to pay the lions?

To create Sawdust, 51 Crisis clients worked with 21 professional artists as an ensemble to devise, write, design, build, rehearse and perform the show.

In 2017 we were delighted to include Crisis clients as trainees in design, costume making, lighting, movement, direction and stage management.

"On top of being an absolute credit to the charities and individuals who have brought it to life, it is a piece that brings all the laughter and tears one expects when paying admission, with a splash of razzle-dazzle showmanship and plenty of truth to sink your teeth into." - Daily Info review

We started with workshops bringing together artists from internationally acclaimed theatre company Complicite, Crisis clients and members of the public. Our starting point for this work was the phrase ‘A Beautiful Mess’.

The writing group then explored this and came up with the circus world of Sawdust, with characters and storylines tied together in the final script by the lead writer. The music group composed the songs, the design group created the set, and the devising group worked on the movement and characters.

Sawdust was performed 11 – 14 October 2017.

"I’ve learnt a lot during my involvement with Hidden Spire - how to do measurements, fittings and make alterations….The project has meant that I have had an opportunity to gain experience in something I’d otherwise have little chance of getting into."Costume design trainee


Hidden Spire 2015 was Before The Tempest, a show which imagined what life was like on the island for Miranda and Prospero as a prequel to Shakespeare’s classic tale of love, magic and bad weather.

'There are so many threads to Hidden Spire; from the writing and art workshops in the summer residency, to devising workshops with actors and design sessions with visual arts in the spring, to building the set and chorus rehearsals in the summer, and our final rehearsal period this September. We have worked with 56 Crisis members and 29 professional artists. Some have dipped their toe in and others have seen the project along its whole course.

'Whether we have worked with someone for a few hours or several weeks, everyone’s contribution has been instrumental in bringing together what you see today; from the individual characters of our chorus of birds, to the artwork you see hanging on Prospero’s tree. It is the many different voices woven together that make the fabric of this piece and it is this enriching process which continues to challenge and reward all of us who work on the project.'

Lizzy McBain, director

Watch the trailer:


With funding secured from Arts Council England, the 2013 project expanded from its roots in 2012, with four sell-out public performances in December.

The theme explored by cast and crew was ‘chance’: the writing group worked with the performers to devise and create a story exploring the role of chance and change in our lives.

The Clock Shop is the oldest business in town, run by brothers Calvin and Alwyn. But things are changing, and the siblings’ future hangs on a thread – and it isn’t just them. Frances has been working on the books for twenty years; she has been engaged to Cal for as long. Edwina, the loyal neighbour, spends most of her time at the shop. And Ricky, supplier of parts and good humour, looks up to Calvin as a kind of father. Will their lives together be swept away like so many loose cogs and wheels off a worktable?

Watch the video below for a taster: 


The first Hidden Spire production was the biggest creative collaboration between Arts at the Old Fire Station and Crisis Skylight Oxford since the two charities came together in 2011 to re-open the Old Fire Station. We’re proud of what we achieved with a small budget and in a short period of time. This show played to a select audience of our friends and supporters, and laid the foundation for the future of the project.

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