Actress Wendy Craig launches SunFest theatre programme

Actress Wendy Craig pictured with Sunderland University Performing Arts and Drama Students who are performing in 'King Lear' on the opening night of the Sunfest 2012 Festival at the Customs House in South Shields
Actress Wendy Craig pictured with Sunderland University Performing Arts and Drama Students who are performing in 'King Lear' on the opening night of the Sunfest 2012 Festival at the Customs House in South Shields
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BAFTA-WINNING actress Wendy Craig got the ball rolling for a month-long creative partnership between Sunderland University students and a North East theatre.

Students from the university’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media are taking over the Customs House in South Shields this month for the second year running to stage their own programme of theatre, dance and visual arts.

Durham-born actress Wendy, is supporting the partnership, called SunFest, and attended the launch night to support those taking part.

Wendy, who is best known for hit shows such as Not in Front of the Children, Mother Makes Three and Butterflies, said: “I am delighted to support these students who are just starting out in their careers.

“I always knew I would grow up to be an actress.

“Acting was my passion so I know how enthusiastic these young students will be.

“SunFest is a wonderful and unique opportunity to perform before a live audience and I’m sure the experience will inspire these students on to greater things.”

Last year was the first time such a venture had been trialled in the North East and the first time the South Tyneside arts venue had handed over the reins of its entire entertainments schedule to another organisation for a month.

The success of the partnership has resulted in a new venture – this time branded SunFest, with a programme promising to be even bigger and better than last year’s event.

Some of this year’s highlights include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Hollywood Night, Amnesty International’s 50th birthday party, an acoustic showcase, as well as jazz, contemporary and ballet music.

Ray Spencer, Customs House executive director, says last year’s event was such an inspirational experience that he wanted to build on its success this year, with a view to establishing SunFest as a regular event on the venue’s calendar.

He said: “Once again this year we are putting our faith into students to programme an exciting and eclectic mix of dance, drama, music and visual arts. We have no doubt they will rise to the challenge and present a mix of thought-provoking and entertaining performances for our audiences.”

Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts, Design and Media at the University of Sunderland, added: “The festival gives our Performing Arts students the experience of planning, producing and performing in shows for a paying audience.

“It’s a tremendous showcase and platform for our students and it’s also a terrific advertisement for the range of music, drama and dance on offer at the university.”

l For a full programme of events and to book your tickets go to: www.customshouse.co.uk

l To follow the students’ journey through SunFest and to add your comments, a Twitter Account has been set up: @sunfest2012.

l Bus operator Go North East is also supporting the SunFest event, offering discounted travel to students attending shows throughout the month.

Twitter: @sunechokaty