Big changes start locally

Free Arts Programme for Children to Launch in the MAC Quarter of Sunderland


  • The Live Theatre’s successful Live Tales workshops will come to Sunderland in April 2018
  • Based in the new music and arts hub of the regenerated Fire Station
  • Supported by a £300,000 grant from The Virgin Money Foundation
  • Virgin Money staff will be involved with the project providing skill-based volunteer support

Young people from across Wearside will have access to free drama and writing activities in a brand new venue within the regenerated Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Quarter in the Edwardian heart of Sunderland thanks to a £300,000 grant from the Virgin Money Foundation.

Live Theatre is one of the anchor tenants for the newly refurbished Fire Station, Sunderland’s new music and arts hub. It will launch a new arts programme, Live Tales, which will offer free storytelling workshops in state of the art facilities for Key Stage 2 (KS2) and KS3 classes from April 2018.

The award to support the Live Tales programme will enable a creative and dynamic workshop space to be at the centre of the regenerated Fire Station, ensuring that local children are among the beneficiaries of this flagship regeneration programme.

Live Tales workshops were launched at Live Theatre in Newcastle in September 2017, to inspire young people to embrace creativity and build confidence through story-writing. Through a mixture of drama and writing activities, classes collaborate to create a completely original story. Each child continues the story individually and receives an illustrated storybook to complete at school.

The £300,000 grant over two years from The Virgin Money Foundation’s Ripple Fund will enable Live Theatre to equip the studio space at The Fire Station for creative writing workshops, and to research and launch the project ahead of the first workshops in April 2018. The workshops are supported by volunteers who help the children develop their stories, with over 100 volunteers already helping with the workshops on Tyneside. Live Theatre hopes to engage further volunteers on Wearside.

Live Theatre will work with The Virgin Money Foundation to provide opportunities for young people from across Sunderland to be involved with the MAC Quarter. Virgin Money staff will contribute to building the sustainability and effectiveness of the work through a range of volunteering activities, from supporting the delivery of the workshops to providing pro-bono professional support.

Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director of The Virgin Money Foundation said:

The MAC Quarter is an exciting piece of regeneration for Sunderland, rich in culture and enterprise. The Virgin Money Foundation was set up to support the regeneration of communities and we are excited about the opportunity to be a partner in the MAC Quarter, working beyond the funding to ensure the whole community will benefit from the new facilities and improved economy. Storytelling can be a window to the world for many children, we hope that it will also be a doorway to many years of participation in Sunderland’s MAC Quarter.

Jim Beirne, Chief Executive, Live Theatre said:

Live Theatre was delighted to be invited to be part of MAC Quarter in Sunderland and share our creative experience. We are keen to develop an educational offer relevant to young people in Wearside. We are delighted to be able to offer creative writing workshops for school classes and community groups at our new base at The Fire Station, which will be free thanks to support of the Virgin Money Foundation’s Ripple Fund.

Paul Callaghan, Chair of the MAC Trust, Sunderland said:

We are delighted to be able to work with Live Theatre to offer their tried and tested Live Tales workshops to young people in Sunderland. Their story writing workshops are clearly developing the creative and literacy skills of young people, improving their life chances, and increasing their aspirations, which in the long term will aid the regeneration of Wearside.

Live Tales workshops attracted over 1,500 pupils from 50 classes in its first year in Newcastle. Live Theatre’s work with young people was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution Award at the North East Youth Work Awards and awarded Investors in Children status for its child-led approach. It has the largest free drama education and participation programme in the region.

By investing in local children’s creativity, The Virgin Money Foundation will be funding activity that could have a ripple effect into artistic output in the future and through the raised aspirations and increased opportunities of local Sunderland children.

Schools and Community Groups interested in finding out more about Live Tales should see and join Live Theatre’s mailing list to be informed when the workshops are available to book.

Media contact:

Tel: 0191 279 4676



About the MAC Trust

The MAC Trust was formed in 2012 to help lead Sunderland’s regeneration using the city’s cultural offer as its main impetus. It is a consortium partner of The Cultural Spring alongside University of Sunderland, The Customs House and Sangini; a member of the Sunderland Cultural Partnership Leadership Group and, most recently, a core partner, alongside Sunderland City Council and University of Sunderland in the development of Sunderland Culture, a new venture that sees the merger of the city’s main venues owned by the three partners.

Its plans to develop the city-centre MACQ began with the successful redevelopment of the 1907 central fire station, thanks to a £2.5m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, into a centre for participatory activities in the performing arts with a focus on young people. It has also been granted a further £6 million to develop a purpose-built midscale auditorium at the side of The Fire Station to open late 2019. It is now looking at further development opportunities in the MACQ which also houses the large-scale Empire Theatre and a small-scale music and performing arts venue on the first floor of The Peacock public house.

About the Virgin Money Foundation

  • The Virgin Money Foundation launched in August 2015 as an independent charitable foundation focused initially on community projects in the North-East of England, and growing to operate nationally over time.
  • It promotes the sustainable regeneration of economically and socially deprived communities in the UK. This includes providing investment in community housing and building projects, promoting opportunities for youth work and training, as well as investing in projects designed to relieve unemployment.
  • Virgin Money funds the running costs of The Virgin Money Foundation Ripple Fund and North East Fund. This helps to ensure that 100% of donations to the Foundation - including £8 million over 4 years contributed by Virgin Money, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - go towards helping the Foundation to achieve its charitable objectives

About Live Theatre

Live Theatre has an international reputation as a new writing theatre. As well as producing and presenting new plays, it seeks out and nurtures creative talent.

A high proportion of Live Theatre’s work regularly tours to other venues across the UK and internationally, including to Broadway and the Melbourne Festival. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, written by Lee Hall and co-produced with National Theatre of Scotland, won an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and has just completed a West End run and The Red Lion by Patrick Marber, starring Stephen Tompkinson, transferred to London in winter 2017.

Live Theatre’s work with young people was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution Award at the North East Youth Work Awards and awarded Investors in Children status for its child-led approach. It has the largest free drama education and participation programme in the region.

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