FROM humble beginnings in an Oxford bedroom, Creation Theatre has come of age.

Over the past 16 years it has staged 46 plays and entertained 350,000 audience members in countless community venues. It has taken its shows to the city's rooftops, parks and the Cowley car factory.

Executive director James Erskine said: “Creation is a real one-off. It is a magic formula of heartfelt work, passionate audiences and outstanding venues distilled through the history and culture of a truly special city.”

Now Oxfordshire’s largest theatre producer, Creation was founded by David Parrish in 1996, when the banker and passionate amateur dramatist, took the radical decision to turn his back on his financial career and focus on theatre.

Laying out the plans for the company on the bedroom floor of his house in Oxford, he created a unique brand of community theatre staged in unusual venues, such as Blackwell’s bookshop and the BMW Mini plant.

Audience figures rocketed from 3,500 in 1996 to more than 50,000 in 2006, despite the company receiving no regular funding, and relying on ticket sales and donations to fund its year-round programme of shows, drama clubs and school workshops.

Mr Erskine added: “Oxford is a place where a conversation or an idea can flourish into a cultural organisation inseparable from its surroundings. We’re excited about what the future holds and the ongoing support of our friends and supporters, the people of Oxford, will be at the heart of our plans.”

During the summer rain and floods of 2007 outdoor productions of Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew and the Oxford Passion – which between them had cost a total of £350,000 to stage – were badly hit, with the loss of income threatening the company’s future. Donations saved it after it became a charity.

Since then Creation has gone from strength to strength.

David Parrish left Creation last year for a new life with his family in Norway, but he visited Oxford to join the anniversary celebrations.

He said: “I never wanted to be a theatre producer, but when I first lived in Oxford in 1995 I saw an opportunity and seized it.

“I’ve always attempted to create shows that I personally would have been willing to pay to see.

“And as I look back on my almost 16 years running the company, it’s amazing to think that we have not only survived but flourished, largely thanks to the hundreds of incredible people who worked for, or with the company or supported it in some way.”

Creation celebrated the 16th anniversary with a party at the Cherwell Boathouse. The company’s next production is Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, at the Said Business School’s rooftop theatre, off Frideswide Square, from July 7 until September 1.