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NGCV supporting Sunderland City of Culture 2021

28th September 2016

NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues are supporting Sunderland’s bid to be City of Culture 2021 and we are encouraging everyone to sign up and back the bid on social media.  There are lots of ways to support the bid:

Sunderland’s aspiration to be a city of culture – regardless whether it is chosen to be City of Culture 2021 has prompted a bid of £6m for Arts Council England funding.  This represents the bulk of funding for a new city centre auditorium to be located near the Sunderland Empire Theatre.  NGCV members are supporting the development and Dance City and Live Theatre are directly involved.

The new £8.2m entertainment venue is the next phase of the creation of a cultural quarter, led by Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust.  The Trust received an initial development grant of £250,000 from the Arts Council earlier this year.

Already the Trust has overseen the restoration of the Dun Cow and work on a £3m transformation of the old fire station on High Street West, into a cultural hub started last month after the Heritage Lottery Fund granted £2.5m.  The fire station was built in 1907, but has been empty since 1992.  The builders in the old fire station project will be Keepmoat, who recently restored The Old Orphanage, a listed building in Hendon.  Work is expected to be completed in autumn next year.

Paul Callaghan of the MAC Trust said the new bid to Arts Council England had been very detailed and included a full year of programming at the proposed venue. “It will be a landmark venue of which the city can be proud, presenting local, regional, national and international artists to local audiences,” he said.

The new venue will be able to accommodate 450 people seated and up to 700 standing.  Jason Flanagan, project director for Sage Gateshead, is behind the new auditorium.  “Jason has been responsible for the design of the UK’s key contemporary cultural landmarks and our auditorium would certainly have the wow factor,” said Mr Callaghan.

Lined up to run it is Helen Green, former boss at Arts Centre Washington, recently appointed to run the Fire Station and the new auditorium. 

Newcastle based Dance City and Live Theatre are also involved in boosting Sunderland’s cultural facilities.  Two new dance studios will be a feature of the Fire Station and be available for a range of classes.  Dance City’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Anthony Baker, said he was, “excited to be involved in such an ambitious and forward thinking project.”

Live Theatre, based on Newcastle’s Quayside has also thrown its weight behind the project. Chief Executive Jim Beirne said, “Live Theatre is also looking forward to developing some of our youth theatre and creative writing projects, as well as new plays at the Fire Station”.