Interview with Unlocking The Doors commissioned theatre company The Six Twenty

We are part way through Unlocking The Doors, a programme of live performance across Sunderland commissioned by Sunderland Culture. It’s so wonderful to have live performance back, bringing people together to enjoy collective creative experiences. #UnlockingSunderland 

Up next as part of Unlocking The Doors is Club Six Twenty on 26th August 7.45pm; a fun and fabulous neon playground of live music, performance and digital art from the folks at The Six Twenty. It’s set to be a playground for you to explore, get creative and have a good time – all happening at INDEPENDENT – SUNDERLAND featuring headline Sunderland band PICNIC, Sunderland visual artist Jo Howell, digital and light artist Ronan Devlin, singer and performer MXYM, drag artist Gladys Duffy, Sunderland’s Uncaged Ariel Theatre, film maker Merlin Mee and performances from The Six Twenty. Tickets and more information about Club Six Twenty can be found HERE

Ahead of Club Six Twenty – we thought we’d catch up with The Six Twenty to find out about who they are, all about Club Six Twenty and why you shouldn’t miss it!  

Tell us about The Six Twenty? 

Well, hello there. We are The Six Twenty.  

We make head-banging new theatre and creative happenings. Setting fire to what theatre can be, we believe it should begin well before the curtain rises and long after it drops. We make fun, fabulous, social events where you can get together for a good night out.  

Based in Newcastle, we are made up of a team of freelance artists, technicians, and creatives.  

 
Why did you apply for Unlocking the Doors? 

We love Sunderland and have had such a great time bringing work to the city with projects like our cult comedy quiz show MIXTAPE (The Peacock & Dun Cow) and gig-theatre show FANS (The Peacock).  

Unlocking the Doors is an incredible opportunity for us especially during such a turbulent time for artists. It has given us the chance to experiment with a new concept (a live performance and arts club night) and bring it right to the heart of Sunderland.  

Now more than ever, it’s important to make new connections and collaborations. Unlocking the Doors has meant we have been able to work with a whole host of brilliant Sunderland artists who are new to us. Plus, work with the awesome Independent which is the perfect space for what we are planning!  

Tell me about Club Six Twenty?  

Club Six Twenty is a new immersive club night featuring a stellar line-up of local artists. It is a fun and fabulous playground, taking place across two floors of Independent. It is a place for you to explore, get creative and have a good time.  

Think festival vibes. You can flow about the spaces, have a dance, experience brilliant live performances, make your own art, or chill out in our upstairs immersive digital experience (more on that later!). It is a friendly and safe space for you to re-emerge into the world of live performance.  

Don’t let the word ‘club’ put you off – this is a space for anyone over the age of 18 years who enjoys live music, theatre, circus, getting a bit creative and having a bit of a boogie.  

You can expect upbeat sax-driven funk-pop from our headline band PICNIC, who herald from the sunny suburbs of Sunderland. And a mix of rock, shock and emo glamour from singer and multi-instrumentalist MXYM.  

Throughout the night there will be pop-up performances from our Six Twenty clubbers and UV circus antics from Uncaged Aerial. Plus, Sunderland artist Jo Howell will be inviting you to get involved in the creation of our UV photowall – perfect for those club selfies!  

Why should Sunderland folx come and what can they expect? 

It’s a chance to let your hair down, try something new and get together as the pandemic restrictions are gradually eased.  

You can expect:  

  • Live music 
  • DJ sets from our fabulous drag queen host Gladys Duffy 
  • Immersive digital and art installations 
  • UV circus 
  • And plenty of surprises! 

It’s a place for you to reconnect with your creativity and celebrate local artists doing what they do best.  

And to ensure the best experience for club goers we have limited the tickets so there will be plenty of space for you to flow about the spaces. There will also be non-alcoholic and alcoholic options at the bars.  

Leave your troubles at the door and immerse yourself in something that’s a little bit different. 
 
Post pandemic – why are events like this an important part of bringing folx back together? 

It helps us reconnect with what we love, make memories but above all have a good time with your mates and maybe make some new friends along the way.  

We’re creating a fun and safe environment at the club for people to rediscover their love of art, music and creativity. It’s a friendly and playful space that you can enjoy however you choose. There’s no pressure here.  

Art can be made in lots of different ways – this club night is all about celebrating local talent and having fun whilst doing so. Sometimes we don’t realise what’s right on our doorstep! 
 
How did you go about programming the event? Tell us about the programme? 

Club Six Twenty is all about creating a night that brings people together. We’re working with a wide variety of local artists, creatives and technicians to make this event possible. There are over 25 independent artists involved in the night.  

Some have included direct call outs for artists and others have been by collaborating with local creatives for the first time. This has included working with Digital Artist Ronan Devlin – who is creating a bespoke version of his digital artwork In Flow – which will transform the whole of Independent’s upstairs gig space into an immersive communal installation piece. Something that has never been done in Independent before!  

We are also working with Sunderland based theatre & circus company, Uncaged Aerial, who are creating unique energy boosting neon performances throughout the night showcasing circus and aerial in a non-traditional setting.  

Plus, we are super excited to be bringing drag queen superstar Gladys Duffy back to Sunderland. Can you believe it’s the very first time they have played in their hometown!  

Not to mention some banging live music from headliner PICNIC bringing the party vibes as well as some of The Six Twenty’s regular performers and collaborators bringing the fun to help you have a good time.  

Why Independent Sunderland? Why are venues like that important? 

Venues like Independent are the lifeblood of the independent music scene in Sunderland. It’s a dream venue to host a night like this. It’s got plenty of spaces, which makes it perfect for creating different experiences and environments for people to explore. It’s also right bang in the middle of Sunderland, so easy for Sunderland locals to get to.  

Bringing live performances and art to unexpected places and non-traditional settings is something we love to do at The Six Twenty. Independent is a non-traditional performing space for theatre and circus. We want to break down barriers to participation and rethink how people engage with theatre and visual art – it’s not something that needs to be stuck behind expensive glass. Why not have it as part of a club night!  

 
What’s it been like working with Ronan Devlin? 

For the night, we have been working with the incredible Ronan Devlin. His work, made across print, screen and multi-sensory installation, focuses on audience engagement and looks at the intersection of connection, emotion, sense perception and the material world.  

For Club Six Twenty he is reimagining his interactive digital artwork In Flow into an immersive mixed reality experience that creates real-time interaction between live and remote audiences. It is an extraordinary piece that will be taking over the top floor venue space at Independent. It is something really special for us to have as part of the night. You can see a sneak peek of what to expect here: https://ronandevlin.com/in-flow  

 
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to open those Club Six Twenty doors? 

We are dialling it up to 11! We are so excited to unlock those doors, welcome audiences back to live performances and celebrate local artists doing what they do best.  
 
What’s next for The Six Twenty beyond this? 

Next up, we are premiering our new show Redcoat at Live Theatre in Newcastle from 27-30 October. It’s a brilliant new partnership with long time Six Twenty collaborator Lewis Jobson that’s loosely inspired by his time as a Butlin’s Redcoat. Expect lots of laughs, holiday entertainment, epic dance routines, balloon modelling and that extra bit of Redcoat sparkle. You may even get a sneak peek of Lewis’s balloon modelling antics at Club Six Twenty!  

Fingers crossed – we are also hoping to bring Club Six Twenty back to Sunderland with a brand-new line up of local artists too.  

Phew…. well, thank you Six Twenty, that sounds unbelievable and a whole lot of fun! Tickets are limited and available now; get tickets and join us for a top night of live music, performance, and digital art.  

Do you have a story to share? How have you unleashed creativity during lockdown? We would love to hear from you! Let us know of your creative ideas by emailing us at [email protected]

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