£300,000 to help children into drama and writing at Sunderland’s The Fire Station

From left, Paul Callaghan of the MAC Trust, Jim Beirne, chief executive of Live Theatre, Helen Green, director of the Fire Station and Nancy Doyle-Hall, executive director of The Virgin Money Foundation.
From left, Paul Callaghan of the MAC Trust, Jim Beirne, chief executive of Live Theatre, Helen Green, director of the Fire Station and Nancy Doyle-Hall, executive director of The Virgin Money Foundation.

More children on Wearside will be able to get creative at Sunderland’s revamped Fire Station venue following a £300,000 grant.

Following the award from the Virgin Money Foundation’s Ripple Fund, free drama and writing activities will be put on in the regenerated Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Quarter in the Edwardian heart of the city.

Dancecity Studios and Heritage Centre at the Old Fire Station, Sunderland.

Dancecity Studios and Heritage Centre at the Old Fire Station, Sunderland.

Live Theatre is one of the anchor tenants for the newly refurbished Fire Station, Sunderland’s new music and arts hub, and it will launch a new arts programme, Live Tales, which will offer free storytelling workshops for Key Stage 2 (KS2) and KS3 classes from April.

Through a mixture of drama and writing activities, the classes help 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, which is being awarded over two years, will help 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.

Dancecity Studios and Heritage Centre at the Old Fire Station, Sunderland.

Dancecity Studios and Heritage Centre at the Old Fire Station, Sunderland.

The workshops are supported by volunteers who help the children develop their stories.

Live Theatre will work with The Virgin Money Foundation to provide opportunities for young people from across Sunderland to be involved with the MAC Quarter.

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.

“Storytelling 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.”

Jim Beirne, chief executive of Live Theatre, said: “Live Theatre was delighted to be invited to be part of MAC Quarter in Sunderland and share our creative experience.

“We are keen to develop an educational offer relevant to young people in Wearside.”

The 1907 central fire station has been redeveloped into a centre for participatory activities in the performing arts with a focus on young people thanks to a £2.5million Heritage Lottery Fund grant .

It has also been granted a further £6 million to develop a purpose-built midscale auditorium at the side of The Fire Station to open late 2019.

Chairman of the MAC Trust Paul Callaghan said: “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.”

Live Tales workshops attracted over 1,500 pupils from 50 classes in its first year in neighbouring city Newcastle.

It is hoped that the grant will be funding activity that could have a ripple effect into artistic output in the future and through the raised aspirations and increased opportunities for Sunderland children.

Schools and community groups interested in finding out more about Live Tales can go to www.live.org.uk/livetales and join Live Theatre’s mailing list to be informed when the workshops are available to

book.