Sunderland students take over arts venues

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SUNDERLAND students are staging a takeover at two of the region’s popular arts venues.

For the last two years, students from the city university’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, have taken over the Customs House in South Shields, running their own programme of theatre, dance and visual arts for a whole month.

Now, in its third year, the success of the Sunfest partnership is being extended to include performances at Arts Centre Washington.

Graeme Thompson, dean of arts, design and media at the university, said: “Sunfest gives our students the experience of planning, producing and performing shows for a paying audience. It’s an invaluable experience.

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

“I am grateful to our friends at the Customs House for again providing this opportunity for our students.

“We’re also delighted to announce that this year Arts Centre Washington is also joining Sunfest, proving that this event is growing in strength each year.”

At Arts Centre Washington in Fatfield, students will perform works by two of the world’s greatest playwrights; Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and All My Sons, and the abridged version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Titus Andronicus.

Matthew Blyth, audience development officer at the centre, said: “We are passionate about working with young people, supporting new and emerging talent in Sunderland and the development of high quality theatre experiences for all.

“We are therefore delighted to be able to merge all three of these priorities in the Sunfest partnership with the University of Sunderland and the Customs House.”

At the Customs House, audiences will once again be treated to an eclectic month-long mix of dance, drama, music and media from a Beatles tribute evening to Motown classics, a tribute to the life of Bob Fosse, a stage version of Patrick McCabe’s novel The Butcher Boy, and students performing the modern classic Attempts On Her Life by Martin Crimp.

Customs House executive director Ray Spencer said: “Now in its third year our relationship with The University of Sunderland is really blossoming.

“The students bring a dash of verve and panache to all their performances, and it’s a great platform for those who wish to develop a professional career on the stage.”

Over the last two years Sunfest has attracted support from the North East’s prominent entertainers and actors including Melanie Hill, Wendy Craig, Sunderland band Frankie and the Heartstrings, and Jade Thirlwall from girl-group Little Mix.

This year there will also be performances by South Tyneside College students.

The launch night for Sunfest takes place on Monday, April 29.

For a programme of events and to book tickets visit

Twitter: @sunechoschools