18 July 2017

Sunderland is among only six places to work on an exciting new national arts engagement project with the acclaimed National Theatre.

Sunderland Empire and The Fire Station will both be part of a three-year programme, supported by Arts Council England’s strategic touring fund that aims to diversify and increase theatre audiences in six regions.

Following the National Theatre touring War Horse to Sunderland Empire in 2014, the NT is now further developing its relationship with Sunderland Empire. The theatre’s Creative Learning team previously worked on successful community arts engagement projects linked to the North East debut of War Horse and the award winning production of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which resulted in taking the theatres creative learning work beyond Sunderland and developing specialist interest areas in the field of autism.

Hollie Coxon, Creative Learning Manager, Sunderland Empire said: “This opportunity comes at such a key time in Sunderland’s cultural story and we are excited to have the opportunity through this new type of relationship with the National Theatre to develop a good working relationship with The Fire Station next door, providing the city with further great opportunities for cultural engagement.

“Having this type of relationship with National Theatre will provide a wealth of opportunities which go further beyond the programming of their amazing large scale productions at Sunderland Empire, and the extensive and ambitious learning which coincides with their productions.

“We are excited to see what unfolds over the course of the next three years.”

Helen Green, Director of The Fire Station, said: “We’re not only delighted to be working with National Theatre, but genuinely excited to be working closely with our neighbour Sunderland Empire. The Fire Station is set to be an exciting, vibrant arts hub for the city, and ourselves and the Sunderland Empire will very much be at the heart of the emerging cultural quarter.

“Many people in Sunderland won’t have the time or resources to visit the National Theatre in London, so it’s such great news that they’re coming to us.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of newly-created Sunderland Culture, added: “After the fantastic news that Sunderland has been shortlisted to become City of Culture in 2021, the news of National Theatre’s support for two Sunderland organisations is hugely welcome. It’s further evidence of Sunderland’s cultural renaissance – and it is massively encouraging that such nationally-recognised institutions recognise what is happening in Sunderland and want to be part of it.”

The funding will see Sunderland Empire and The Fire Station, which is due to open in autumn 2017, work in partnership alongside others in the city to further increase arts engagement across Sunderland through a range of innovative and inspiring projects.

Announcing the successful funding grant, Lisa Burger, Executive Director at the National Theatre, said: “We’re delighted to be able to green-light this ambitious new project, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England’s strategic touring fund. Reaching new audiences and supporting theatre making across the country is one of the most important things we do. This three-year project will allow us to work with a range of partners for a sustained period, including smaller or new venues.”