Virgin Money for Live Theatre at The Fire Station

Peter Lathan

The Virgin Money Foundation is to fund Live Theatre’s free storytelling workshops at The Fire Station, Sunderland.

From April, the £300,000 grant will fund drama and writing activities in the newly opened (November 2017) venue, the centre of the MAC (Music, Arts and Culture) Quarter which is being developed in the Edwardian area of the city around the Empire Theatre and the Sunderland Minster.

Live Theatre will offer free story-writing workshops for Key Stage 2 (KS2) and KS3 classes in the new state of the art facilities.

Live Tales workshops were launched at Live Theatre in Newcastle in September 2017 to inspire young people to embrace creativity and build confidence through story-writing. Through a mixture of drama and writing activities, classes collaborate to create a completely original story. Each child continues the story individually and receives an illustrated storybook to complete at school.

The £300,000 grant over two years from The Virgin Money Foundation's Ripple Fund will enable Live Theatre to equip the studio space at The Fire Station for creative writing workshops, and to research and launch the project ahead of the first workshops from April 2018. The workshops are supported by volunteers who help the children develop their stories, with over 100 volunteers already helping with the workshops on Tyneside. Live Theatre hopes to engage further volunteers on Wearside.

Live Tales workshops attracted over 1,500 pupils from 50 classes in its first year in Newcastle. Live Theatre's work with young people was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution Award at the North East Youth Work Awards and awarded Investors in Children status for its child-led approach. It has the largest free drama education and participation programme in the region.

Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director of The Virgin Money Foundation said, "the MAC Quarter is an exciting piece of regeneration for Sunderland, rich in culture and enterprise. The Virgin Money Foundation was set up to support the regeneration of communities and we are excited about the opportunity to be a partner in the MAC Quarter, working beyond the funding to ensure the whole community will benefit from the new facilities and improved economy. Story-telling can be a window to the world for many children, we hope that it will also be a doorway to many years of participation in Sunderland's MAC Quarter."

"Live Theatre was delighted to be invited to be part of MAC Quarter in Sunderland and share our creative experience,” Jim Beirne, Chief Executive, Live Theatre added. “We are keen to develop an educational offer relevant to young people in Wearside. We are delighted to be able to offer creative writing workshops for school classes and community groups at our new base at The Fire Station, which will be free thanks to support of the Virgin Money Foundation's Ripple Fund."

And Paul Callaghan, Chair of the MAC Trust, Sunderland commented, "we are delighted to be able to work with Live Theatre to offer their tried and tested Live Tales workshops to young people in Sunderland. Their story-writing workshops are clearly developing the creative and literacy skills of young people, improving their life chances, and increasing their aspirations, which in the long term will aid the regeneration of Wearside."

As well as Live Theatre, The Fire Station will also be home to workshops from the Sunderland Music Hub and Newcastle’s Dance City.