Opening date announced for Sunderland’s Old Fire Station development

An artist's impression from Ainsworth Spark Associates showing how the Old Fire Station in High Street West might look like.
An artist's impression from Ainsworth Spark Associates showing how the Old Fire Station in High Street West might look like.
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The multi-million pound Old Fire Station development will open its doors on November 23, the Echo can reveal.

After months of building work and £3.6million pounds of investment, the flagship building in the city’s emerging cultural quarter will open with a large-scale live performance.

Periplums Claire Raferty, The Fire Station Director Helen Green, Cultural Springs Michael Barrass and Periplums Damian Wright inside The Fire Station

Periplums Claire Raferty, The Fire Station Director Helen Green, Cultural Springs Michael Barrass and Periplums Damian Wright inside The Fire Station

The celebration will mark the transformation of the once derelict station into a restaurant, cafe, heritage centre and dance and drama studios.

A joint commission from the Cultural Spring and Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (Mac) Trust, the free performance will be delivered by internationally-acclaimed outdoor theatre company Periplum.

More than 200 local people will be involved in the £120,000, six-month performance project which will be a new interpretation of the Lambton Worm legend.

Emma Horsman, project director at the Cultural Spring, said: “Periplum have a much-deserved reputation for their work around the world and we’re delighted to be working with them on this project.”

The Fire Station, which had stood empty for 22 years, before work began

The Fire Station, which had stood empty for 22 years, before work began

It is expected that at least 100 local people will perform in the opening show, which has been funded by the Cultural Spring, MAC Trust, the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts scheme and smaller grants from Nexus, Sunderland BID and Gentoo.

The mixture of movement, music, pyrotechnics and drama will take place outside of the development, in High Street West.

Over the years, Periplum have worked on projects with the likes of the National Theatre, the British Museum and the BBC and are working with culture bosses in Hull as part of its City of Culture 2017 celebrations.

Artistic director Claire Raferty said: “Our project will be based on a Sunderland dragon and will be a modern take on the legend of the Lambton Worm. We see the dragon as a symbol of regeneration and reawakening, which is really what the new Fire Station and cultural quarter are about too.

“We’re already working closely with Live Theatre, Dance City and Sunderland Music Education Hub – we’ll give them a brief based on the narrative we’re developing and then will be checking in with them to see how they’re working with their specific community groups. It will all then come together for the one-off performance.

“We’re hoping to weave in local stories and characters into the narrative, so will be speaking to lots of Sunderland people to hear their stories. The show will be a celebration of Sunderland, its people, its history – and its future. A show delivered with, and for, and about the people of the city.”

The large-scale performance is set to be a teaser of the kind of events the city could expect should it win the UK City of Culture 2021 title.

The opening of the 110-year-old Fire Station into a culture hub will mark the third phase of the Mac Trust’s transformation of the area.

The first phase was the award-winning renovation of the historic Dun Cow pub, and another stage was the successful renovation of the Londonderry pub, which reopened as The Peacock earlier this year.

The fourth stage of the Mac’s cultural quarter will be the construction of a new £8.2m auditorium for music, dance and drama adjacent to The Fire Station. Arts Council England has awarded £6m towards the cost of the work, which will begin later this year and be finished in 2019