Today is the fifth birthday of The Bike Shed Theatre. On a Monday evening, in the icy Winter of 2010, we pulled up the shutters of the back door and welcomed in forty people to enjoy the first preview of our first production. This was a new play, The Distance, by South West writer Craig Norman. All creatives were local and there was an immediate sense of ownership of the space by audiences and artists alike. Our three week run included a handful of sold out shows, we negotiated with our landlord to stay a little longer and, by the Summer, we were expanding to make the business permanent.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To get to opening night, on the 8th February, required a huge effort. Such was the excitement about the potential of the space, that many friends volunteered support to get the place up and running. Floors were scrubbed, walls painted and equipment lent.
For the following five years, this spirit continued. And it is this spirit that I want to celebrate here. The history of the Bike Shed is, above all else, the spirit of community, of shared goals and collective activity. Yet within that, there have been individuals – dedicated, selfless, inspirational – who have contributed to make the Bike Shed what it is. The 100 people that I will write about over the coming months are a motley selection of artists, employees, volunteers, philanthropists, mentors, provocateurs and supporters.
This is, of course, a highly personal take on the history of the Shed so far. I hope you’ll excuse that. I will no doubt falsely remember, invent and elaborate. Moreover, I will miss people out. Please forgive me and please get in touch to let me know where I’ve gone wrong.
This list is not exhaustive. It can be added to.
My inspiration for this blog, beyond the individuals themselves, comes from two sources: Neil MacGregor’s eye-opening A History of the World in 100 Objects and Jo Hunter’s gorgeous blog In Praise of People.