Sunderland's Music, Arts and Culture Quarter



Project Overview

The vision and the capital programme to develop the Fire Station Project in Sunderland city centre is led by the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust.

Established in 2012, the Trust is a philanthropic, business-led charity. Its mission is to drive regeneration and change in Sunderland through the development of cultural activities and infrastructure.

Catalysing, developing and promoting culture within the city, the Trust has brought together people with ability, talent and ambition, who share a vision for Sunderland's future as a vibrant, creative and exciting place where the arts, music and culture flourish.

In 2014, the MAC Trust was a founding partner in ‘The Cultural Spring’ programme, part of ‘Creative People and Places’ initiated and funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery. Since it was established the Cultural Spring been very successful in taking arts and culture to the most socially deprived areas of Sunderland and South Tyneside and has recently been awarded a further period of funding until 2023.

In 2016, MAC Trust established Sunderland Culture, bringing the University of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council with them to form this unique, collaborative cultural delivery partnership. Sunderland Culture was awarded Arts Council England NPO status in 2018. It is a company limited by guarantee, and a registered charity, bringing together Sunderland’s most important cultural assets and activities, to realise the ambition of a city brimming with creative potential.

Supported by MAC Trust, Sunderland Culture is building a strong track record in cultural delivery. MAC Trust helps fund Sunderland Culture’s activities and plans to continue to do so. Alongside managing the city’s key physical assets of the city, the National Glass Centre, the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, and the Museum and Winter Gardens, from 2021 Sunderland Culture will manage the Fire Station. The Freehold of the building will be retained by the MAC Trust.

From 2019 Sunderland Culture became one of only three cities chosen to host Arts Council England’s National Partners Programme, giving them access to the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art and connecting the collection to diverse audiences who otherwise would have limited opportunities to experience it.

Sunderland Culture led the UK City of Culture bid and the hugely successful Tall Ships Programme in 2018 attracting over 1.2 million visitors to the City. Sunderland Culture have also led the city’s 1418Now Programme with Asunder and Pages of the Sea.

Establishing Sunderland Culture enables collective management of the key cultural venues of the city, allowing shared services, financial and operational management efficiencies across the venues, and a more resilient vehicle for future fundraising and income generation for the cultural sector in the city.

The Fire Station is an £18m cultural infrastructure development by the Sunderland Music Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, designed to bring cultural opportunities vital to the regeneration of Sunderland. It transforms a derelict city centre site by creating vibrant cultural buildings for the community including participatory studios and a middle scale performance venue. It is underpinned by a business model that delivers increased capacity, impact, future resilience and sustainability for Sunderland’s ambitious cultural programme.

This transformational development, designed to contribute to a renewed pride and increased footfall in the city centre, is being delivered in two phases:

Phase 1

The £7m restoration and repurposing of the iconic and locally loved 1907 Fire Station, and restoration of two listed public houses. This phase is now complete.

Phase 2

The £11m construction of a 450/800 (seated/standing) auditorium that will augment the existing Fire Station with a magnificent 21st century performance venue.  This phase is ongoing with completion scheduled for mid 2021.

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