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5 Questions With... Paul Simpson

Looking for ways to stay creative and engaged during this strange 'new normal'? The team at Oxford Playhouse are [virtually] here to help - they've made the majority of their courses available online. Paul Simpson, Participation Manager, tells us more...
Photo credit: Alex Winn

Daily Info: Tell us about what you normally do

Paul Simpson: Alongside the fantastic Main Stage and BT Studio programme of performances, Oxford Playhouse works year-round with community groups and schools, and also hosts many in-house opportunities, providing a platform for everyone to have a go at being creative. Each term we welcome groups of aspiring young performers into our theatre to join one of our Young Companies, and adults, too, can take part in our Playhouse Adult Company. We host regular activities and workshops for toddlers and parents, including our weekly Hey Diddle Diddle music session, and provide workshops during school holidays for young people and adults of all ages. Our motto is ‘A Playhouse for Everyone’, and we are motivated to provide something here for everyone who wants to take part.

DI: How have you adapted to the social distancing measures?

PS: We’re working hard to ensure that our audiences and participants continue to be supported through the next few months. A lot of activity is moving online, including our 12|16 Young Company, 17|25 Young Company, Playhouse Adult Company and Hey Diddle Diddle sessions. From 27 April, these workshops will be delivered using the Zoom video conferencing platform. We’ve also launched new initiatives, to provide our communities with new ways to explore creativity, including our new Community Playmaker scheme which encourages people of all ages and experiences to have a go at writing a play. We’re also finding ways to continue to deliver our school and community group programmes, to support teachers and charity workers who are continuing to provide vital services to young people across the county during this period of lockdown.

DI: What are you planning for when things get back to normal?

PS: We can’t wait to get back into our theatre and to welcome audiences and participants back into our auditoria and rehearsal rooms. As far as possible, our scheduled programme of performances and workshops will return as planned, alongside our work with schools and community groups. We can’t wait to see our theatre bustling again!

DI: How can people support you now?

PS: We recently launched our Playhouse Plays On appeal. 80% of our annual income comes from ticket sales, so this period is obviously very difficult for us. In order for Oxford Playhouse to survive these difficult circumstances, we are calling on the generosity of our audiences and communities to ensure we can return to normal as quickly as possible. People can donate by visiting our website.

We want everyone, whilst temporarily tucked away safely at home, to stay creative. Get involved with our new initiatives, as well as those being provided by the many other fantastic cultural organisations across Oxfordshire, and use this time to have a go at something new. The creativity and curiosity of our audiences and communities will ensure that we all stay connected to each other, and will provide the spirited momentum we all need in order to get back to normal in a few months.

DI: What are you doing to relax and have fun while stuck at home?

PS: Cooking and baking have become a regular activity, as well as watching the entire catalogue of Disney films recently made available to stream. I’ve made my way through a couple of books too, and I’m attempting some new skills like learning some basic British Sign Language and new foreign languages. It’s also been a real pleasure to take part in the weekly applause for our NHS staff and carers – the sacrifice of social distancing is definitely worth it in order to support our key workers properly!

Interested in getting involved with the programmes Paul mentioned? Find out more here.

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