creation theatre

Book Auction To Help Creation Theatre

The ‘Summer’ weather was the worst in living memory and coupled with the effect that the Olympics had on tourism outside of London was  bad news for our lovely friends at Creation Theatre. They fund their productions exclusively through their ticket sales so a 50% reduction in tourists visiting Oxford has hit them very hard.

We love Creation Theatre – not only are their productions innovative and great fun but they are, collectively, one of the most inspiring groups of people that we have ever worked with. Naturally we want to do what we can to help secure the future for such a culturally important organisation for Oxford.

You can help too by bidding in our book auction:

We have 5 specially signed and dedicated copies of Michael Palin’s ‘Brazil’  The dedication reads “Thank you for supporting Creation Theatre” and 5 signed copies of Philip Pullman’s ‘Grimm Tales’ that we are auctioning. All proceeds of the auction will go to Creation. Of course they would make delightful Christmas gifts but, more importantly, the money raised would help to ensure spectacles such as this are not lost to Oxford:


Place your bid by emailing by Wednesday 19th December. Please spread the word along with the raffle that Creation are running, the great work that Barefoot Book and Whistling Cat Books are doing for the cause or by any of these other fundraising ideas. Of course helping to sell out every performance of Aladdin and the Magical Lamp will help too!

Thanks in advance for anything that you are able to do…

Hamlet – days until opening night!



Last year, Creation Theatre’s Doctor Faustus, staged in the world-famous Norrington Room here at Blackwell’s in Oxford, wowed audiences with its chilling and thought-provoking depiction of a man so hungry for power that he sells his soul to the devil. It was a production that thousands will never forget.

This year, Creation Theatre are back and have teamed up with The Factory to bring us first Hamlet and then The Odyssey. (For further details, see the section at the end of this piece and keep bang up to date on all the news and gossip by following #Hodyssey on Twitter)

Last week some cast members from The Factory came to see the Norrington Room. The actors explored the geography of the space, working out entrance and exit routes, and musing on the wealth of dramatic potential offered up. They proceeded to do an acoustic check so that they could understand the sonic properties of the room and then there was a photoshoot as well as a filmed trailer.

Many of you know the Norrington Room, I’m sure. It’s worth mentioning, though, that every single day we get new visitors to the bookshop who come and discover the Norrington Room for the first time. There’s an area just at the bottom of the stairs which we call – with colloquial familiarity, ‘The Gun Turret’. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but it’s been called that for years, due, I’m sure, to the fact that it looks a little like a strategic outpost from where one can oversee and guard the rest of the room. Anyway, upon ‘The Gun Turret’ we often have some of our most eye-catching displays, and if you’re ever the bookseller creating said displays, it is not unusual to hear gasps of awe from behind you as those first-time visitors take in the majesty and scale of the Norrington Room.

The other thing one can often witness is how many visitors’ voices suddenly hush many decibels, in a sort of unconscious mark of respect to the room. This is always interesting – this isn’t a library, we don’t demand silence, and yet more often than not, silence descends!

And then of course, after the gasp, after the silence, a visitor begins to take in all those books. Last time Creation were here, their Stage Manager remarked on what a remarkable theatrical ‘set’ the Norrington Room had proved. If this was a film, then yes, you can imagine it, but in what other theatrical production could you imagine the backdrop of this vast quantity of books?

During the daytime, the Norrington Room is the academic heartland of the bookshop – people browse, amongst other subjects, Politics, Business & Economics, Law, Science, Biology & Medicine, Computing, Philosophy and Religion.

In the evening, magnificent author events often take place here and in March and April, Hamlet and then The Odyssey will ring out amongst those tomes and volumes . . . We would be delighted if you would join us.


5th March – 24th March

A Factory Production

Directed by Tim Carroll

The brainchild of director Tim Carroll, The Factory bring their flagship show to Oxford this spring. So far almost 15,000 audience members have helped create a one-night only, sometimes unexpected and always surprising, interpretation of Hamlet. Now it’s your turn. A rigorous exploration of Shakespeare’s verse combined with The Factory’s spirit of mischief and spontaneous play allow the company to delve into the endless possibilities within Shakespeare’s greatest work.

Note to audience:

Every audience member is asked to bring a random object to be used as a prop during the performance. Everything is welcome, large or small, ordinary or bizarre


The Odyssey

29th March – 28th April

A co-production between Creation and The Factory

Directed by Tim Carroll

The myth of Odysseus’ epic journey was ancient when Homer committed it to writing. Almost three thousand years later the stories still echo through our narrative memory. They are tales of famous heroes and villains; Athena, Zeus and the Cyclops, and those you might not know yet; six-headed Scylla, the whirlpool Charybdis and the lethargic Lotus-Eaters.

The Factory turn their unique spirit of spontaneity, playfulness and imagination to Homer’s epic story this spring. Combining movement, song, text and improvisation, each performance will be an original retelling that recreates the spirit of one of the world’s oldest oral storytelling traditions.


Tickets range from £10 – £29

Book online at

or call our Box Office on 01865 766266


Cleopatra Saturday – All Will Have Prizes!

All day on Saturday 23rd July, everyone who buys a book from Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street will win an instant prize.

The all-day give-away is in celebration of Creation Theatre Company’s summer show Antony & Cleopatra, which is being performed in the rooftop Amphitheatre at Saïd Business School from 8 July – 3 September.

One lucky person will win a “Creation Theatre Ticket For Life”, meaning they can come to see every Creation show free of charge for the rest of their life. If the prize goes early on in the morning, another prize will be released for the afternoon, so the fun will last all day. (Prize is subject to terms and conditions).

Other prizes to be given away on the day are Creation mugs, Creation scripts, a free workshop for a local school, free pairs of tickets and family tickets to Antony & Cleopatra, money-off vouchers for workshops, Blackwell’s Gift Cards, and a range of books.

Do Awards Matter?

Ask any bookseller why they remain a bookseller and the stock reply is ‘I just kinda fell into it, but I love it.’ It is certainly not to get rich and it is often seen as a step to getting published or a job in publishing.

Equally, a significant amount of people who leave bookselling stay in touch and say how much they miss the camaraderie, the closeness to the books and the ‘essence’ of working in a bookshop.

We see it as honourable and important – there is nothing like the satisfaction of placing a book in a customers hands that you know they are going to love. It might even change their life. We take this ‘power’ seriously, and recognise that it is recompense for the inevitable monotony of much of the day job.

Most customers who thank us for what we do have no idea just how heartening it is for us to hear that. It validates what we hold dear. Sometimes it is unspoken, but we see the effect that bookseller recommendations can have on sales of specific titles (our current staff choice in Blackwell’s has seen an extraordinary uplift in sales of those books). Blackwell’s Broad St has just received validation on a grand scale.

This week saw the Book Industry Conference, where the great and the good of British publishing and bookselling gathered to talk about the present and the future. On the Monday night of the conference was the gala dinner and the annual awards ceremony. Blackwell’s was proud to have two nominations – Micha Solana for Young Bookseller of the Year and Broad Street’s very own Zool Verjee for Manager of the Year. We were blown away to win in both categories (Micha shared that award with Gorgina Hanratty of Tales on Moon LaneChildren’s bookshop). Will Gompertz wrote an excellent piece on the awards here

Zool winning has given a real boost to the whole of the shop this week – if a 132 year old bookshop can have a spring in it’s step then it has had that and more since the announcement. Zool may be reticent about me saying this but the award was truly deserved – he has been instrumental in raising our ambition as a bookshop. The fabulous collaboration with Creation Theatre wouldn’t have happened without him. He has taken on stunning events with the likes of Amartya SenShirley Williams and Richard Dawkins to name just a few. He has helped to build and build the bookselling activity at the Oxford Literary Festival over a number of years. Two weeks ago he took the Eurostar to Paris to sell buckets of books at an Oxford Almni reunion. His ability to manage detail whilst maintaining an impressive vision for the possible is extraordinary. Of course (and Zool would be the first to insist that this is said) many other people are instrumental in helping us deliver our Events and Marketing activity. That the British book industry explicitly recognised his talents is not only a reflection on Zool, but also a stamp of approval on the direction that we are working on taking one of the great bookshops in the world.

Zool, I salute you. And I love your rather marvellous trophy

Retail Theatre – quite literally

Conversations with Creation Theatre about using our bookshop as the venue for a play started over two years ago. The vision of David Parrish, Artistic and Executive Producer of Creation, was matched by the ambition of  Zool Verjee, Events and Marketing Manager for Blackwell’s Broad St and a seemingly outrageous idea was brought to fruition. Dozens of others have played substantial roles in getting us to a point where over 9,000 people have enjoyed the play.

As Creation themselves say “You don’t need a theatre building to make great theatre. The magic happens all over Oxford. We seek out places that have never been used for theatre before, and bring them to life.” Their expertise and reassurance that any obstacle could be overcome gave us great faith that we could put on a show six nights a week for the best part of two months despite a bucket load of operational concerns. It has been a triumph, and a remarkably trouble-free triumph at that (a couple of fainting incidents and the loss of power one night aside).

The choice of Dr Faustus was inspired – I can think of no more appropriate play to be performed amongst the philosophy and religion bookshelves in the Norrington Room. Every review that I have seen recognises that the location adds to the experience and Creation have used the space brilliantly with the specially constructed stage being a mere guide to where the actors strutted their stuff. There was agreement from an early stage of discussions between Blackwell’s and Creation that it was important that the audience was reminded that they were in a bookshop throughout the performance.

Feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive – a common theme has been the praise that we have received for trying something different, something ambitious. It has also been apparent that the affection and esteem that Oxford holds for Creation – even in a city as culturally bejeweled as ours, they are truly one of the gems that shine brightest.

And so, on Friday the curtain comes down for the last time (metaphorically because, err there is no curtain). We will miss you Creation, you have been a wonderful company to work with, and I suspect we will see you here again?

A severe case of booksellers block

Apologies for the lull in proceedings from our maiden post. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw; there are a thousand reasons but no excuses.

There has been no lack of activity in the shop over the past months with a frantic ‘last-minute’ Christmas (runaway bestseller for us was A History of the World in 100 Objects) and the first ever play to be hosted in the shop. We will be talking more about the joys of Creation Theatre in a future post.

Our main focus at the moment is the upcoming Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. Top of my list of events to go to is Sarah Bakewell talking about Montaigne and the incomparable Kazuo Ishiguro – surely one of the greatest literary craftsman of our generation?

If you are attending the festival do come and talk to our booksellers – we are a very friendly bunch…