Sunderland Empire and the Fire Station to benefit from National Theatre project

'Joey' the horse, from the stage production of War Horse, pictured outside Sunderland Empire Theatre in High Street West.
'Joey' the horse, from the stage production of War Horse, pictured outside Sunderland Empire Theatre in High Street West.
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The acclaimed National Theatre has chosen Sunderland as one of only six areas to benefit from a new national arts engagement project.

Sunderland Empire and The Fire Station will both be part of a three-year programme, supported by Arts Council England’s strategic touring fund, that aims to diversify and increase theatre audiences in six regions.

The news follows successful learning programmes based around National Theatre productions War Horse and the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time during their visits to the theatre.

Hollie Coxon, creative learning manager at Sunderland Empire, said: “This opportunity comes at such a key time in Sunderland’s cultural story. We are excited to have the opportunity through this new type of relationship with the National Theatre to develop a good working relationship with The Fire Station next door, providing the city with further great opportunities for cultural engagement.”

Helen Green, director of The Fire Station, said: “We’re not only delighted to be working with National Theatre, but genuinely excited to be working closely with our neighbour Sunderland Empire. The Fire Station is set to be an exciting, vibrant arts hub for the city, and ourselves and the Sunderland Empire will very much be at the heart of the emerging cultural quarter.

“Many people in Sunderland won’t have the time or resources to visit the National Theatre in London, so it’s such great news that they’re coming to us.”

The news comes after it was announced that Sunderland has reached the final five in the race to become City of Culture 2021.

The funding will see Sunderland Empire and The Fire Station, which is due to open in autumn 2017, work in partnership alongside others in the city to further increase arts engagement across Sunderland through a range of innovative and inspiring projects.

Keith Merrin, chief executive of newly-created Sunderland Culture, added: “After the fantastic news that Sunderland has been shortlisted to become City of Culture in 2021, the news of National Theatre’s support for two Sunderland organisations is hugely welcome. It’s further evidence of Sunderland’s cultural renaissance – and it is massively encouraging that such nationally-recognised institutions recognise what is happening in Sunderland and want to be part of it.”

Announcing the successful funding grant, Lisa Burger, executive director at the National Theatre, said: “We’re delighted to be able to green-light this ambitious new project, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England’s strategic touring fund. Reaching new audiences and supporting theatre making across the country is one of the most important things we do. This three-year project will allow us to work with a range of partners for a sustained period, including smaller or new venues.”