Why there’s more to The Fire Station than a place for food and drink in Sunderland – Katie Bulmer-Cooke
In last week’s edition of my column I shared the great things I found out about The Cultural Spring while filming with The National Lottery, and it seems that I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know that this wonderful project was doing so much for the community in Sunderland ... so many people have told me, either in person or on social media, that they had no idea either.
This week the video we filmed at The Fire Station went live and was met with a very similar response.
Although the building has a very visible presence in the city centre, for many it is best known for its good food and as an inviting place to meet for a drink or two, but after spending some time there during filming, I found out that there is way more to this beautiful building than first meets the eye.
Through funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund, the project received £2.5million to turn what had been a very run-down and unusable building into a cultural hub, giving people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to take part in and experience workshops and classes in music, drama, art and creative writing.
During our visit to The Fire Station, we met Paul Callaghan, who showed us around this fantastic building with great enthusiasm and passion, and introduced us to Live Tales, a creative writing workshop held at the venue for Key Stage 2 children from local schools.
Me and my co-presenter Josh, were lucky enough to sit in on the session and it was great to see how engaged the children taking part were.
The session was all about opening up their imaginations, improving literacy and in turn improving confidence. The children created characters, plots and storylines and left having created their very own book!
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I had no idea that beyond the bar and restaurant there is an incredible range of activities.
There are a wide variety of dance classes for example, and they cater for people from all aspects of the community.
My biggest takeaway from the visit was that the whole thing about arts and culture in city, and giving people opportunities to be involved, is about building confidence and bringing people together, especially young kids who may initially be shy and more reserved.
Getting involved with something like the Live Tales project can really show children that they are capable of so much more than they thought possible, and this sense of confidence and capability can be transferred into so many other areas of the lives.
There are many reasons why Sunderland is great, and this project is certainly one of them!