Highlights of new season at Arts Centre Washington announced

From tales of rebellion, haunting classics and the anti-wedding event of the year, to captivating children’s shows, must-see comedy, and magical Christmas experiences, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Arts Centre Washington’s exciting new autumn programme.

Theatre highlights include a loud and rambunctious new show by critically acclaimed rap storyteller Jack Dean, featuring an original score by a live band. Jeramiah tells the incredible true story of the much-misunderstood Luddite rebellion – a movement that spanned the whole North of England and made the destruction of machinery a capital offence. (6 September).

This is Not a Wedding invites audiences to join the wildly entertaining Gracefool Collective as they don their bridal dresses for an evening of laughter, tears, sing along and unique dance theatre. Re-imagining recognisable ceremonies, the show explores a generation’s experiences of tradition, conformity and expectation, in a last ditch attempt to figure out what it all means (3 October).

October also sees a new adaptation of Henry James’ disturbing classic, The Turn of the Screw, in an Edinburgh sell-out show featuring puppetry and a haunting original soundtrack.

For families, Bamboozle Theatre present Pulse – a captivating story of a young girl called Patience and her bird as they wait for the rain in the heat of the American desert. The show brings a relaxed version suitable for all and a special performance suitable for young people with profound and multiple learning abilities. (14 November).

The programme includes comedy performances from TV’s David Harper telling his Unexpected Tales of the funny world of TV, art and antiques (12 September). The District Zone Comedy Club also makes a welcome return, with North East stand up Gavin Webster joined by Jarrow’s own Lee Kyle as they straddle the line between the clever and the silly for a night of laughter (20 September).

Also returning is the popular Davy Lamp Folk Club, held at ACW on the first Saturday of every month and hosting a line-up of renowned folk artists: Anthony John Clarke, Huw Williams, Jens Kommnick with Tom McConville, and Dana and Susan Robinson.

Made for young people, by young people, the Sundown Takeover on 1 November promises a night to remember, full of cultural surprises and fun fuelled activities.

In the gallery, artists Rachel Cochrane and Maggie Hickman Smith present Women: Cartography – an exhibition bringing arts and science together in a creative response to the cellular pathology from their hysterectomy and mastectomy operations (27 September – 26 October). Inspired by Leonardo Di-Vinci, their work features a variety of creative techniques, from drawing with gall wood ink to digital photography and film.

This will be followed by the Washington Open Exhibition 2019, open to all artists of all abilities and disciplines. (15 November – 20 December).

Christmas sees a host of festive activities and events, from wreath making classes and a special film screening to a Christmas Cabaret.

On the 7 December, the Christmas Craft Fair will take over the Arts Centre – filling it with stalls that offer a variety of products made by local artists and craftspeople. With independent traders selling everything from jewellery, cards, bags, home baking and more, the fair is the perfect place to pick up some unique, hand-made Christmas gifts and treats.

For all the family, Jack Frost tells the tale of a little girl called Holly, who befriends a magical winter sprite and their adventure into his magical ice-covered world. A frost-filled, festive tale about friendship and the joy of joining in. (3 – 8 December)

An alternative to the standard festive cheer, Christmas Gothic offers a more chilling experience to scintillate the gooseflesh for dark Christmas nights. Resurrecting the Victorian tradition, Dyad Productions invites you in from the cold to present three haunting tales of the festive season. (13 December)

For more information on the programme, or to book tickets, visit artscentrewashington.co.uk or call 0191 561 3455

Sunderland’s local communities unite to celebrate culture and creativity

Community groups from across Sunderland came together last month to perform and share in a moving showcase of culture and storytelling.

The project, entitled Who Do You Want To Meet?, brought together six community groups, who had never previously met, to collaborate in creating a performance which was shared on 30 June at St Lukes, Pallion.

Delivered by Sunderland Culture, in partnership with North East arts organisation Helix Arts, the participatory project took place over eight weeks, during which the groups worked alongside professional artists to create their performances.

Hendon Writer’s Group, based at Back on The Map in Hendon, worked with asylum-seekers and refugees through community organisation Friends of The Drop-In (FODI). Local writer, James Whitman, supported participants in creating stories which celebrate the commonality of human experience across different cultures. Culminating in an audio installation, the project featured intimate, entertaining and emotional anecdotes and short stories exploring childhood, love and loss. 

Helix Arts’ Falling On Your Feet, a dance ensemble for people aged 65+ based at St Luke’s Neighbourhood Trust in Sunderland, joined forces with asylum seekers and refugees, who are part of the FODI weekly Women’s Group. Supported by artists Tracey West and Anna Hall, the pairing choreographed a contemporary dance performance, which explored the cultural and personal symbolism of scarves and veils.

Finally, Young Asian Voices paired up with the residents of Benedict Court Retirement Home. Together they are exploring a variety of arts activities and will share their work later in the year.

Corinne Kilvington, Producer for Who Do You Want to Meet? at Sunderland Culture, said:

“The evening was a truly wonderful celebration of shared creativity and everything the groups have experienced over the past eight weeks.

“By bringing together people from different communities, backgrounds and walks of life we wanted to tackle issues around social cohesion, in particular those who may feel isolated or excluded, using art as a universal language. 

“We had incredibly positive feedback from the participants, who found it both interesting and rewarding to meet individuals from different communities and to explore all the things we have in common despite generational and cultural differences. 

“The project was also hugely important for refugee participants in making introductions into the local communities, the new life ahead of them while also helping to improve practical language and writing skills.”

Partnering with Sunderland Culture, Helix Arts supported Who Do You Want To Meet? volunteers and partners through their Make Dance Happen – a ‘learning by doing’ programme that gives participants the skills, knowledge and networks they need to establish and run their own dance ensembles within their local community.

Helix Arts Creative Producer, Susie Batey, said: “The ensemble from St. Luke’s Neighborhood Trust have successfully delivered a number of dance classes for older people, helping participants improve their balance, flexibility and reduce fear of falling. With support from Sunderland Culture, they helped develop a piece of work especially for Who Do You Want To Meet?

“It’s great to see how far the group has come since completing Make Dance Happen.”

Who Do You Want To Meet? was delivered by Sunderland Culture through the Great Place programme, funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.



Young people in Sunderland will have the chance to add their voice to a playful and empowering mission to save the future when a sensational interactive video installation, Multiverse Arcade, arrives at Sunderland Culture’s Mackie’s Corner pop-up gallery from 25 May – 8 June.

‘What will you do when you’re in charge?’

Inspired by the belief that all young people should be able to answer this question, Multiverse Arcade begins with a machine playing a video message, from the year 2066, onto participant’s palms apologising for ruining the world. Using this thought-provoking question as a stimulus, Mackie’s Corner on High Street West, Sunderland, will be transformed into a headquarters of ideas, where opinions and voices can be expressed freely and recorded for the future.

Created by Unfolding Theatre, the installation at Mackie’s Corner will also feature the voices and views of young people from We Make Culture’s Young Musician’s Project who meet in Sunderland (Pop Recs) and have been working with Unfolding Theatre in the making of this event.

Multiverse Arcade inspires young people’s thinking about citizenship, while inviting them to explore and talk about social and environmental issues. It hopes to inspire and build young people’s confidence about the future roles they might take to influence change, through voting, volunteering and social action.

Using a specially created recording booth, young people can add their voices and opinions to thousands of others in a truly immersive experience. The booth generates a print-out of their sound wave, and a code to find their recording uploaded onto Instagram (@multiverse_arcade)

The event was part of last year’s Great Exhibition of the North and created with New Writing North’s Young Writers’ City at Excelsior Academy and Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre, with the aim to encourage young people to think about how they want to change the world.

Annie Rigby, Artistic Director at Unfolding Theatre, said:

‘I’m thrilled to be bringing Multiverse Arcade to Sunderland city centre and to give a voice to people here, who may have previously not had a chance to speak up about what they would change about the world and have it heard by a large audience.

‘Multiverse Arcade challenges  “Well, what are you going to do?” and we very much hope it encourages young people to feel that their voices and ideas can help make change happen.’

Multiverse Arcade is one of an ongoing series of pop-up exhibitions held at Mackie’s Corner, an iconic building in Fawcett Street, with the ambition to integrate culture into the city centre and bring spaces and buildings to life. The project is supported with funding from Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, through the ‘Unlock’ strand of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme.

Laura Brewis, Producer for the Great Place programme at Sunderland Culture, said:

‘Unlock aims to develop creative and cultural industries across the city,  providing support, skills and practice development, while creating opportunities for emerging artists to practice and develop in Sunderland.

‘We are really excited to see Multiverse Arcade transform the space at Mackie’s corner into a “headquarter of ideas” where young people in Sunderland can come and share their thoughts and ambitions and hear those of others.’

Multiverse Arcade in Sunderland is funded by Arts Council England, Virgin Money Foundation #iwill fund, Readman Family Grassroots Fund via Community Foundation.


Sunderland Stages Writers’ Project is a new citywide initiative from Sunderland Culture, developed with the support of the Great Place Unlock programme, aiming to develop talent and unlock potential in the Sunderland area.

Sunderland Stages Writers’ Project targets writers new to writing for theatre and aims to provide a ‘crash course’ in writing for the stage.
Participants can get involved with talks and workshops by established writers and theatre-makers and take advantage of opportunities for work to be professionally performed later on in the year.

Talks and Workshops

Venue – The Fire Station, High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 1DT
Series of dates/times.

View the current events available here.


THE continuing renaissance of Sunderland’s cultural sector today (Tuesday, March 12) received further impetus after confirmation the city has been chosen to host artwork from the acclaimed Arts Council Collection.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens will be one of only three galleries nationwide to present work from the Arts Council Collection as part of the National Partners Programme for 2019-2022.

The Arts Council is investing £1.65m into the programme, which will exhibit the collection over the three-year period. The collection includes work by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, and Gillian Wearing.

Sunderland Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly, said: “This is a major coup for Sunderland and the region, building as it does on the city’s recent success in attracting the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition.

“We know that there’s a huge appetite for amazing art and culture in Sunderland and we’re delighted that the Arts Council have recognised that by including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens in this three-year programme.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture who will deliver the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Arts Council Collection to bring amazing works of art to audiences in Sunderland and the North East over the next three years.

“Bringing the Arts Council Collection to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is the latest installment in the resurgence of the city as a centre for arts and culture following hot on the heels of the reopening of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and the current Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition.

“We know our audiences will relish the opportunity to be inspired by the very best of modern and contemporary British art from the collection.”

Jane Tarr, Director, North, Arts Council England said: “Congratulations to Sunderland Culture on winning their bid to host the Arts Council National Collection. This is excellent news, not only for Sunderland, but for the whole of the North East. By having the Arts Council National Collection as the basis of a partnership programme at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and across the City for the next three years, people who might otherwise never get a chance to see the Collection will be able to enjoy and engage with it.

“And it’s fitting the collection comes to Sunderland as it builds on unsung work spotting and developing talent over many years – Sunderland has been the first to show many artists who’ve gone on to build international reputations and its contemporary art scene goes from strength to strength.  I hope it will encourage more people to explore Sunderland and the North East, and to see first hand, not only the Arts Council National Collection, but the amazing culture offer we have here in the region.”

Graeme Thompson, Sunderland Culture Chair and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland added: “This amazing access to the national collection is the latest accolade to be awarded to Sunderland. From a University perspective it underlines the advantages to students studying arts and creative industries in a city which has such unparalleled access to artists, designers, makers and curators. And it brings another step change to the city’s culture-led revival.”

Funded by the National Lottery, the focus of the National Partners Programme is to increase the diversity and number of people experiencing the Arts Council Collection in England, and to support organisational development in regional art galleries.

The Arts Council Collection was founded in 1946 is the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world. The collection has played a valuable role in supporting galleries round the country through loans, touring exhibitions and curatorial skills. There are now over 8,000 works in the Collection, including paintings, sculptures, original, works on paper, prints and moving images.

The first National Partners Programme (2016-2019) has given galleries and museums in Liverpool, Birmingham and Eastbourne the opportunity to host the Collection.

For more information about the Arts Council Collection go to www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk


MORE than 1,000 tickets have already been snapped for an exhibition of drawings created by ‘one of the greatest minds in history’ at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, featuring 12 drawings from the Italian master, is part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death and Sunderland is one of 12 UK venues chosen by Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the exhibition. A total of 144 Leonardo drawings will be on show across the country.

The exhibition opens this Friday (February 1) and runs until Monday, May 6.

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture who delivers the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re thrilled, but not too surprised, at the interest shown in Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing.

“It’s a privilege for Sunderland to host such a prestigious exhibition and people from across the region and beyond have been booking their tickets.  The 12 drawings selected for Sunderland reflect a range of Leonardo’s interests and include great examples of the drawing materials employed by him.”

Drawings on show at the Sunderland exhibition are: The drapery of a kneeling figure, c.1491-94; A portrait of a woman in profile, c.1485-90; Mortars firing into a fortress, c.1503-4; A horse and rider, and studies for Leda, c.1503-4; A bird’s-eye view of western Tuscany, c.1503-4; A sprig of guelder-rose, c.1506-12; Studies of optics and men in action, c.1508; Studies of optics, c.1508; The lungs, c.1508; The bladder, c.1508; The muscles and tendons of the lower leg and foot, c.1510-11; Studies of architecture and a bird’s wing, c.1512-13; A costume study of a prisoner, c.1517-18; A deluge, c.1517-18.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust, said: “We are delighted to work with Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, as one of Royal Collection Trust’s 12 partner venues in the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing nationwide event. In 2019, in collaboration with our partners we will be giving the widest-ever audience across the UK the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist.

“The exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens demonstrates the extraordinarily wide range of Leonardo’s work throughout his lifetime, and is a thrilling opportunity for audiences to engage directly with one of the greatest minds in history. His drawings were central to his work in every field, both his artistic projects and his scientific investigations: they allowed Leonardo to work out his ideas on paper, and can be viewed as his private laboratory.”

A range of artistic projects and programmes, organised by Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, will complement the exhibition.

These include a variety of activities, assemblies and workshops for schools and a project with University of Sunderland students working at FabLab and responding to the question ‘if Leonardo was alive now, what would he create?’

There is also a family programme which includes a Leonardo-themed week during February half-term (February 18 – 22); Leonardo trails around the Museum and a takeover by the Dominic Wilcox Little Inventors project during the Easter holidays. There will also be monthly exhibition sessions for families with children who have additional learning needs or learning disabilities.

An adult learning programme will include: a free talk by Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust on Wednesday, February 27 at University of Sunderland’s Murray Library Theatre (6.30pm – 8.30pm) and then a guided tour of the exhibition by Martin the following day (11am); a botanical illustration workshop at the Museum on Saturday, April 27 and life drawing classes exploring nude, drapery and theatrical costume on Sundays, March 3, 10, 17 and 24 (12.45 – 4.45pm.

Following the exhibitions at the 12 venues the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in more than 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November, the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

Tickets for Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, costing £2.50, can be pre-booked online by visiting www.sunderlandmuseum.org.uk or at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ reception during opening hours. Entry for under-16s is free, but they will need a ticket.

For information and updates on the supporting activities and events, log on to the museum’s website or check social media using the hashtags #SunderlandLeo and #Leonardo500.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in world art, with the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his most famous pieces. Charles II acquired 550 of the polymath’s drawings, which had been bound into a single album, and they have remained in the Royal Collection since the 17th century.

The programme at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens has been supported by National Lottery funding from the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund (thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players) to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.