Celebrations are in order at four of the region’s arts venues which have been awarded six-figure grants to improve their facilities.
The money is to be used to upgrade and equip the arts centre’s gallery and theatre. In the words of the Arts Council, these improvements “will support Arts Council Washington to become a thriving, sustainable and resilient arts hub”.
Director Helen Green said: “It’s absolutely fabulous news. Ever since I started at the Arts Centre in 2008 it has been painfully apparent that there are parts of the building that need attention.
“It is a converted 19th Century farm and there are parts that go back to the original conversion.
“Some of the lights in the theatre have been there since 1977 and would probably fetch a bit of money in the antiquities market.
“That is frustrating when you are trying to light a show or make bands heard. Certainly, from the technical side, this will be a huge boost to us.
“We will now be able to upgrade the theatre and gallery and really get them up to the standard that you would expect in a modern arts building. It will make the place pleasanter for artists and audiences.”
Helen said Sunderland City Council had also supported the upgrade, contributing £45,000 to the £300,000 overall cost of the project.
The financial support, she felt, was an endorsement of the busy programme of events at the venue which would continue while the work was being carried out.
She said of the venue: “It was pretty much on its knees when I came here. It is a very different place now with a much higher profile in the region.”
Also to benefit from the awards is Dance City, the Newcastle-based dance agency, which has been awarded £198,608 to improve its facilities.
The money will go towards new flooring in its five dance studios, new lighting and heating systems and a new 60-seat venue for the development of smaller scale dance works which will sit within its current 250-seat theatre space.
Anthony Baker, artistic director and joint chief executive, said: “It’s really exciting to be able to invest money in the building after 10 years of being open.
“The Dance City building is well used and well loved by the community and we’re delighted to be able to provide even better facilities and services.
“We’ll also be creating exciting new opportunities for artists through our new smaller venue.”
The Maltings is to get £141,608 which will improve its ability to stage live performances and screen-based art.
The grant will go towards better digital lighting, sound and projection equipment, environmental sustainability and financial resilience.
The improvements are seen as a way of increasing participation in activities at The Maltings and enhancing the artistic quality of its output.
The £110,000 awarded to Amber will enable the photographers and film-makers who run it to conserve their archive more efficiently.
According to the Arts Council, the money will fund the purchase of digital equipment which will mean better access to “a documentary collection of considerable cultural significance both internationally and nationally”.