The new venue incorporates an auditorium, bars, a restaurant, dance and creative writing studios and the Parade Ground, a 600-capacity outdoor performance space with an external stage and bar.
Sunderland Vibe has been talking to Sunderland Culture to find out more about Firestarters, the first programme of performances at The Fire Station Auditorium, which starts in December.
The Fire Station: Sunderland’s £18m game-changing cultural hub is here!
Tickets are now on sale for Firestarters which will run to next June and features more than 40 artists and performers – with yet more to be announced.
The programme will include a homecoming gig from singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé, who will deliver an intimate performance on Saturday, January 15.
Firestarters will also include a Christmas cracker of a concert when funk icons Smoove & Turrell and gospel powerhouses Voices of Virtue headline a festive celebration on Sunday, December 19.
The gig will feature MC Kay Greyson and The Origin Crew dancers.
Voices of Virtue will kick things off with an uplifting set of soul/gospel classics before Smoove & Turrell take to the stage.
Firestarters ignite The Fire Station
Firestarters will be lit by North East musical icon Kathryn Tickell and home-grown Sunderland hero Marty Longstaff when they and their bands will be the first acts to perform on stage at The Fire Station Auditorium at the venue’s opening gig on Friday, December 10.
Kathryn and her band The Darkening have been thrilling audiences with their brand of ‘dark and rocky folk’ while Marty and his band The Lake Poets have a growing army of fans, thanks in part to his powerful, poignant and passionate song Shipyards providing the opening titles song for the hugely-popular Netflix documentary Sunderland Til I Die.
Kathryn, the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes as well as a renowned singer and fiddle player, is counting the days to the gig:
“I’m just so excited, I can’t wait. It’s a real honour and a privilege to be performing the auditorium’s first gig and to play with Marty in his home city is extra special.”
After the December 10 double bill, the region’s chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia, featuring their new leader Maria Wloszczowska, will perform a candle-lit Christmas concert on Sunday, December 12, followed by British queen of soul and gospel Mica Paris on Wednesday, December 15.
The celebrated singer, actress and presenter is set to perform an unmissable night of powerful soul and gospel classics, along with hit singles from her illustrious 30-year career, including the chart-topper My One Temptation, I Should’ve Known Better and Breathe Life into Me.
Friday, December 17 will see the main event to officially open The Fire Station, when Mercury Music Prize nominees Field Music will present The Firestarters Revue, with a sensational line-up of guests including rising stars Martha Hill, Reali-T, Faye Fantarrow alongside Sunderland icons Barry Hyde and Ross Millard (The Futureheads) and Frankie Francis.
David Brewis, of Field Music, said:
“The cultural life of this city is something which is very close to our hearts, so we’re extremely excited and proud to be able to contribute to the opening of this fabulous new venue along with an amazing cross-section of the region’s musical talent.”
Looking ahead to 2022
Tickets for An Evening with Emeli Sandé are already selling well. The singer-songwriter, who is also Vice Chancellor at University of Sunderland, recently signed to independent label Chrysalis Records. Famed for her powerful vocals and heartfelt songs, her January 15 date at the auditorium is for an intimate, acoustic performance.
Other New Year highlights at the High Street West venue include a solo show from vital folk-troubadour Richard Dawson on Saturday, January 22; UK country stars The Shires playing an intimate acoustic show on Thursday, January 27; Amy Winehouse: A Celebration of her Life and Work with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra on Thursday, February 10; Japanese drumming sensations Kodo bring their One Earth Tour on Wednesday, February 16 and a performance by The Transatlantic Ensemble of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on Friday, February 18.
Firestarters will end in the summer of 2022 with a special one-off acoustic acapella show by The Futureheads on Saturday, June 11.
A new chapter for Sunderland’s culture scene
The Fire Station has been developed by Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and is run by Sunderland Culture.
The auditorium will programme up to 300 events a year – in music, theatre, comedy and dance.
It can host up to 550 people seated or up to 800 people standing, bringing acclaimed national and international artists to Sunderland, as well as showcasing emerging and established local performers.
As well as providing a perfect platform for professional, established artists, The Fire Station aims to provide a showcase for community talent.
So from Monday, February 21 to Saturday, February 26 (half-term week) the venue will throw open its doors for Open House.
Amateur performers of all types, backgrounds, ages and experiences are invited to be among the first to grace the stage at the brand-new music and performance venue.
If you want to be part of Open House, please visit sunderlandculture.org.uk/openhouse to find out more and how to apply.
For more information about all events and to buy tickets head to www.thefirestation.org.uk or follow @FireStationSun.