William and Kate to open The Fire Station

09 February 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will officially open Sunderland’s new arts hub later this month.

Prince William and his wife Kate will be in the city on Wednesday, February 21 to open The Fire Station, a new arts hub for the city which houses a dance studio, drama studio, a heritage centre and a popular bistro, the Engine Room.

The Duke and Duchess will watch workshops and performances from some of the groups using The Fire Station, where a £3.5m transformation was completed late last year thanks to a £2.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The building stood empty for 22 years before becoming a core part of the Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust’s plans to create a £10m cultural quarter centred on The Fire Station and an adjacent new £8m auditorium, where work will start soon.

During their visit, the Duke and Duchess will be given a tour of the building by MAC Trust Chair Paul Callaghan, CBE, and Helen Green, Director of The Fire Station.

Regional dance agency Dance City and theatre company Live Theatre are both tenants of the building, and the Royal couple will watch a local class take part in a Live Tales story writing session and a Dance Jam workshop in The Fire Station’s first-floor studios.

They will also watch a Bollywood dancers performance, meet a group of young people involved in the Little Inventors project and talk to some of the musicians from The Bunker and Pop Recs.

They will also unveil a plaque marking the opening of The Fire Station.

Paul Callaghan, Chair of the MAC Trust said: "The Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust is delighted to welcome The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to The Fire Station.

“The renovation of this iconic building is a symbol of the city’s growing cultural vibrancy and to have this recognised by such important guests is a real honour and a privilege. I’m sure The Duke and Duchess will be impressed by the talent and enthusiasm of the young performers they will meet while they are here."

Helen Green, added: “This is a superb opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work being done by children and young people in arts and culture in Sunderland.

“The Fire Station is very proud to have been chosen to showcase so many projects such as Little Inventors, Curious Connections and Live Tales, just a few of the original and innovative groups being led by our cultural organisations as well as in schools and youth clubs across the city.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, the organization responsible for bringing together the city’s main cultural venues and delivering major arts projects, said the Royal visit would help maintain the momentum within the city’s growing cultural sector.

“The timing of the Royal visit couldn’t have been better, with so much happening already in the city’s cultural sector and some exciting news to be announced in the coming months. Such a high-profile opening of The Fire Station will certainly help to raise the visibility and image of the city’s overall cultural offer.”

The Fire Station is phase two of the MAC Trust’s plans to create a £10million cultural quarter in the city centre. Phase one was the acquisition and restoration of the Edwardian Dun Cow and The Peacock pubs.

The third phase involves building a 450-seater auditorium between the Dun Cow and The Fire Station, which was built in 1907. Work on the auditorium is due to start within months.

Before Christmas it was revealed Sunderland Culture had launched an ambitious bid for funding to establish a National Centre for Imagination (NCI) in the city centre. A decision on the funding bid will be made next month.

Sunderland Culture is a joint venture company established by Sunderland City Council, University of Sunderland and Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust to deliver and manage Sunderland’s major cultural venues. Since its inception just over a year ago Sunderland Culture has attracted more than £3.5m in new investment into the city for cultural activity over the coming four years.