Space, the final frontier- from Roker Beach!

FANCY a flight into space from Roker Beach? 

Well, now you can emulate the space exploits of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos without leaving Sunderland. 

Production company tiny dragon invites you to join them for a space flight to New Sunderland on planet VX-76, with flights leaving every hour. 

Mark Calvert, Creative Director of tiny dragon, explained: “We look forward to welcoming you on board the Andromeda X, a space shuttle that looks remarkably like a shipping container on Marine Walk, Roker. On your flight you’ll enjoy a striking visual and 3D sound experience, travelling through galaxies, making the jump to lightspeed, encountering alien life forms on a mission to build a new world – New Sunderland.” 

The adventure, called Space Camp: Hylton we have a problem!, is part of a Sunderland Culture project called Unlocking the Doors aimed at capturing the hopes and anticipation of audiences as the pandemic restrictions are eased. The project has been funded through Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants scheme. 

Space Camp has been produced by tiny dragon in a collaboration with Newcastle film-makers Candle & Bell and the 20-minute video experience will be delivered eight times a day in a shipping container next to the Roker Pods on Marine Walk. 

Featuring up-and-coming Sunderland actress Lauren Waine the video was sparked by a bizarre contract detail from former SAFC player Stefan Schwarz – who was barred by the club from going into space! 

Mark explained: “Sunderland had signed Schwarz from Arsenal and had said in the press he was keen to go into space – his agent had even bought two tickets for a Virgin space flight. Sunderland had heard this and so put a clause in his contract that stipulated he couldn’t go into space. 

“We played around with the idea and in our video Stefan Schwarz’s grandson, played by Luke Madison, is now going into space to find New Sunderland. What space camp is really about though is not being able to go where you want to – which everyone has experienced during Covid – and then finding out that where you’re from is actually pretty cool. 

“So many of us have been stuck at home, dreaming of escaping and where better to escape to than space – which is what Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have done recently. In space there’s that feeling of looking back at yourself, and we think the realisation that the place you’re in, or from, is better than you think, but you need to go away and come back to realise that.” 

Matt Runham, Creative Director of tiny dragon, added: “We’ve had great fun filming with Candle & Bell, who have been brilliant, as have Lauren, Luke and Nick Figgis who has a cameo role. We filmed in a green-screen studio in Pelaw and although we originally thought producing the piece for a shipping container would be a challenge, it’s worked out really well. 

“We can get six astronauts at a time on the flights which will be running from 10am to 5pm every day from Tuesday, August 3 to Sunday, August 15, on the hour, every hour. Tickets cost £5.” 

Matt and Mark launched tiny dragon earlier this year after working together for several years at Northern Stage. They aim to create theatre that tells stories via a variety of mediums including radio, podcasts and film, using digital technologies and non-conventional theatre spaces. This is tiny dragon’s first production as a company and they’re excited to be making work in Sunderland for audiences. 

Matt added: “We’ve loved working in Sunderland, everyone has been so helpful and friendly and we’re planning to base ourselves in the city.” 

Matt and Mark would like to thank Dale Barry at DLAW for gifting the shipping container, and Reed Ingram for their technical help. Space Camp features flashing lights, loud noises and unexpected sounds and is suitable for anyone over the age of six. The shipping container is wheelchair accessible. 

Measures will be in place to make the experience as Covid secure as possible, and audience members are requested to wear masks and maintain social distancing. 

Unlocking the Doors incorporates two other projects – Club Six Twenty, night of neon, live music, theatre and fun at Independent nightclub on Holmeside, Sunderland, on Thursday, August 26; and Acedia, a dance performance in The Athenaeum, Fawcett Street, Sunderland which will be delivered by acclaimed dance company Southpaw over the Bank Holiday weekend of August 27-29. 

Tickets, for Space Camp – and the other Unlocking the Doors performances – are available now from Sunderland Culture’s website – www.sunderlandculture.org.uk