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All of Sunderland is a stage, thanks to Sunderland Stages culture project

A new project aiming to put more things on more stages in Sunderland kicks off next month. Sam Wonfor takes a look at what's in store

Helen Green - Creative Director Arts Centre Washington who was one of the founders of Sunderland Stages
Helen Green - Creative Director Arts Centre Washington who was one of the founders of Sunderland Stages

A ‘performing arts renaissance’ is on the cards for Sunderland, thanks to a new project which is aiming to offer a plethora of perhaps unexpected platforms to the best of theatre, dance and spoken word across the city.

Sunderland Stages will bring performances to a range of venues including Royalty Theatre, Arts Centre Washington, North Shore and the Bonded Warehouse (both University of Sunderland Students’ Union venues).

There will also be a number of special performances in ‘found’ spaces including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Independent and The Canny Space.

Project leader and creative director of Arts Centre Washington Helen Green says: “When I came to Arts Centre Washington it was quite an unusual experience for me to work in a city where there are only two professional stages – the Empire Theatre and Arts Centre Washington, who are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size, programme, resources and so on. 

“Unlike the Empire Theatre who present large scale shows sometimes direct form the West End, we present theatre in an intimate setting often made by artists that live and work in the north of England.  

“Over the past five years since I came to Arts Centre Washington and introduced a performance programme we have steadily developed a reputation for really high quality theatre that is often funny, musical or quirky but that most importantly is relevant to the lives of people in our community today,” she continues.

“Our growing audience visit from all over the region.  However, we felt that a number of factors such as poor public transport links were making it difficult for Sunderland residents from over the other side of the A19 from Washington to visit us.

So we decided to take Mohammed to the mountain!”


This plan has been put into action thanks to a partnership between the Arts Centre Washington, The Royalty Theatre and Sunderland University Students Union, which will bring performances to the stage that otherwise would not reach the main city of Sunderland. 

The project will also afford many artists and arts companies their first chance to present work in Sunderland.

Highlights during the debut autumn season of Sunderland Stages include the Ballet Lorent’s acclaimed production ‘The Night Ball’ (October 17), which will be performed in the atmospheric setting of North Shore, a student union nightclub - a perfect location to celebrate the sheer, unadulterated joy of dancing in a social environment. 

The Bonded Warehouse plays host to The Paper Bird’s ‘Blind’ (October 26), which features UK beat-boxing champion Grace Savage, and explores explores the mixed messages young people are hearing in the world today, from motherly advice to what we learn in the school playground and the music charts.

Family theatre comes to The Royalty in the form of Horse and Bamboo’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ (October 18). Suitable for ages five and over, this talk-about adaptation features music and film, puppets and masks.

Arts Centre Washington welcomes the highly regarded touring theatre company Paines Plough with rap artist Kate Tempest’s incendiary new play Hopelessly Devoted (November 20).

Set in a prison the show tells the story of one girl’s redemption through music.

Other venues include The Canny Space (Holy Trinity Church) who are hosting Kate Fox and Union Jill’s ‘Letting Off Steam’ (November 21), Independent and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

For full Sunderland Stages listings and bookings, visit www.sunderlandstages.co.uk


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