£1.38m Kickstart grant for Sunderland

Published: 11 December 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

An artist's impression of the Fire Station Auditorium
Construction continues on the Fire Station Auditorium Credit: David Allan

Sunderland's newest venue, the Fire Station Auditorium, has received a Kickstart grant of £1.38m from the Culture Recovery Fund.

Construction of the Auditorium, which is scheduled to open in late 2021, was already well underway when the pandemic struck, leaving the project team to cope with delays and rising costs.

The £11m auditorium is part of the Fire Station development, one of the largest current cultural developments in a post-industrial UK city centre, and supported by Sunderland City Council, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Presenting a wide range of music, theatre, comedy and dance, the auditorium will seat 460 and have capacity for 800 people standing, as well as an outdoor performance space that will allow 'socially distanced' events. It adjoins the original Fire Station, which was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2018 and houses The Engine Room Bar and Restaurant, heritage exhibitions and specially designed studios which host programmes by Live Theatre and Dance City, including an MA in Advanced Dance Performance.

“This very welcome grant will mean that we will be able to complete this exciting, culturally significant venue for the people of Sunderland and the North East and play an important role in the city’s ambitious regeneration plans,” said Paul Callaghan, Chairman of the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, the charity that is leading the Fire Station Auditorium construction.

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director at Sunderland Culture, which will operate the Fire Station once it is completed, added, “this investment, at such a crucial time, is wonderful news for Sunderland and for music and performing arts across the North East. We are thrilled that MAC Trust has been awarded this support through the Cultural Capital Kick Start Fund to complete the construction of the Fire Station Auditorium. Sunderland Culture is extremely proud to be working with the MAC Trust to develop plans for the opening of the Fire Station later in 2021 and for its music, theatre, comedy and dance programme.”