7 Years On
It was cold. And damp.
Seven years ago, today, we yanked up the doors.
A small heater attempted to warm the space whilst final rehearsals took place. Seb returned from Macro with beers, bottles of vodka, gin, whisky and rum and some wine. We gave the toilets a final clean. Someone had been sick on the back steps, so we cleaned these too. Floors were hoovered, lights focused, line runs completed.
Fin, Debbie, writer Craig and I stood uncomfortably on stage whilst someone from the Express and Echo took our photo. A week later a story appeared under the imaginative headline “theatre in restaurant”.
People started arriving around six. Debbie sat by the back door, a sheet of names and a money box in front of her. Fin and I were behind the bar, pouring drinks.
At 7.20pm we pulled back the curtain to reveal sixty chairs acquired from the Cathedral lined up to face what is now our front door. Around forty people took their seats. Then, at a few minutes past seven thirty, Alison, Charlie, Jane and David took to the stage. And so began the Bike Shed Theatre.
Someone once told me that every cell in your body dies within seven years. So after seven years, are you the same person? Google tells me this is bollocks but as we now live in the age of alternative facts, indulge me as I stretch a metaphor.
In the last seven years, everything about the Bike Shed has changed. The staff are different, the chairs (mostly) are different – the two pink love chairs were acquired from the previous tenants, the Bamboo Gardens, and refuse to become refuse. Performers now in the theatre were still at school when we opened and Seb no longer has to go to Macro to get our booze.
I’m still here of course, much to my own surprise. But apart from that, all of the cells have died and new ones have been born. So are we the same as we were seven years ago?
I fondly believe in the spirit of the start-up, that this spirit, of innovation, of originality, still runs through us. We don’t stand still. We’re never complacent. It is this spirit that fires me up with regard to another cold, damp space in Exeter, a space waiting for another bunch of foolhardy artists and curious audiences to breathe life into it.
But that’s for another day.
For now, if you will, happy birthday us, thanks to the thousands (yes, thousands) of you who have come through the doors these seven years. You’ve been part of an experiment powered by audacity and held together with gaffer tape. Without you, it would have been even more of a vanity project than it seemed at the time, on that dark February night back in two thousand and ten.