New National Theatre production will celebrate the people and sounds of Sunderland

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The production will celebrate the people and music of Sunderland, performed by community members and professional artists from across the city.

Sunderland Culture, Sunderland Empire and National Theatre have announced a new production as part of the National Theatre’s Public Acts nationwide programme that creates extraordinary acts of theatre and community.

Last year’s production of The Odyssey which was performed at The Fire StationLast year’s production of The Odyssey which was performed at The Fire Station
Last year’s production of The Odyssey which was performed at The Fire Station

Director of Public Acts Emily Lim, Co-Director and Choreographer Dan Canham and Sunderland-born musician Ross Millard (The Futureheads) are teaming up to develop a new production called Public Record, a celebration of the people and music of Sunderland performed by community members and professional artists from across the city. 

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Set in a live recording studio, the community will come together to record an album and, in doing so, make a record of who they are.

Using a combination of dance and live music, the piece is aimed at exploring what it means to come together to write our own history, to capture our present and to look forward to a shared future.

The Odyssey featured residents from across the cityThe Odyssey featured residents from across the city
The Odyssey featured residents from across the city

The piece is being developed in collaboration with community members and will feature an array of inspirational artists and musicians who represent the breadth of Sunderland’s rich cultural identity. 

The production will take place from 25 – 27 April 2025 at The Fire Station in Sunderland and will feature more than 50 people from partner community groups.

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Community groups across Sunderland will take part in weekly creative workshops with theatre-makers, theatre trips and creative social opportunities from June, building towards the production of Public Record next year.

It follows the success of last year’s multi-venue production of The Odyssey, also part of the Public Acts programme, which took place at The Fire Station in April 2023.

Among the community groups taking part in the new production will be Back on the Map, who work with communities in Hendon; Connect Company, based at Sunderland Empire who work with adults with additional needs; Sunderland Nigerian Family Group who support Nigerian families in the city and The Alumni Group, an intergenerational group of people from Sunderland who took part in the 2023 nationwide Public Acts production of The Odyssey.

Director of Public Acts Emily Lim said: “We are so excited to be creating our next show in Sunderland with such an inspiring group of community partners and artists. 

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“Sunderland is a city with an incredible musical history where music making and community activism go hand in hand. We can’t wait to start work with our company, celebrating and honouring that spirit in the creation of our new show.”

Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture said: “We’re thrilled to be working on another prestigious project with National Theatre, especially one that is going to celebrate Sunderland’s fantastic musical landscape made even more exciting by the opportunity to incorporate some big dance routines. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity for community members and local artists and musicians to create a new production alongside the National Theatre and Sunderland Empire. A key part of our ongoing collaboration with National Theatre is that community members with no experience of performing, as well as amateur musicians and dancers, will get to work with professional practitioners from around the UK as well as our own region who are hugely experienced and nationally respected.

“Those involved in The Odyssey last year had a brilliant time and a feature of Public Record is that some of those involved in last year’s production will be involved again this year."

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Anthony Hope, Senior Creative Learning Manager at Sunderland Empire, said: “National Theatre's Public Acts programme presents an incredible opportunity to celebrate Sunderland's creative and community spirit.

“Following our involvement in 2023’s Public Acts performance of The Odyssey, we look forward to once again supporting diverse voices and communities from across all corners of our city to take centre stage, showcasing how a shared community theatre experience on an epic scale has the power to bring people together and make a lasting positive change that will resonate for the long term.”

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