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Sunderland’s new auditorium receives major cash boost

ByRob Lawson

Jun 29, 2020

SUNDERLAND’S new Fire Station Auditorium has received a welcome boost from a prestigious national charity.

The Wolfson Foundation has given £80,000 to the Sunderland Fire Station project.

The Foundation is an independent, grant-making charity, whose aim is to improve the civic health of society and has given more than £900 million in grants (£1.9 billion in real terms) to more than 11,000 projects throughout the country. It gives grants to projects it recognises as making a real difference. In this case the Wolfson grant will be spent on the Auditorium’s retractable seating.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: “We are delighted to be funding another exciting project in the North East, and very much admire the ambition of the project – which is highly significant for the people of Sunderland and beyond. The cultural quarter promises to be an exciting development, and it feels particularly important to be involved at this challenging moment for the cultural sector in the UK generally.”

Paul Callaghan, Chair of the MAC Trust, said: “We’re delighted the Wolfson Foundation is supporting the Fire Station Auditorium project. This is a game-changing development for Sunderland that will bring a new cultural offer to people of all ages and is already acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of this part of the city.

“The Foundation always promotes ‘excellence’ in the areas that it funds and we are pleased and honoured that our project meets its high standards and it has decided to support us here in Sunderland.”

When it opens in 2021, the Auditorium will be run by Sunderland Culture, the city-wide organisation established by the MAC Trust, the City Council and the University of Sunderland that already operates a number of the city’s key cultural venues including the National Glass Centre and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.

The Auditorium is being built on High Street West, near to The Empire and adjacent to The Fire Station, which was transformed from a derelict Edwardian fire station into a vibrant arts and culture venue thanks to a £2.5m National Heritage Lottery grant.

The MAC Trust has won the funding from the Wolfson Foundation as part of its drive to create a £18m cultural quarter centred around the 110-year-old building that has also transformed the neighbouring Dun Cow and the Peacock pubs as part of the project. The £11m Auditorium is the MAC Trust’s next phase, a 450-seater auditorium designed by award-winning architect Jason Flanagan and being delivered by Sunderland-based construction company, Brims.