Unlocking the Doors: New Combinations

An audio version of this call out can be found here:

New Artistic Commissions for Sunderland

Sunderland Culture is offering 3 performing arts commissions in theatre, dance, or music for presentation in summer 2021 that capture and convey the public mood as the pandemic restrictions are eased.  We hope the commissions will create opportunities for a wide range of creatives to engage with audiences hungry for creative and social interaction in newfound ways that pivot between live and digital presentation of performances.

We wish the commissioned artists to reflect the sense of the city gradually re-opening by creating performances in found or site-specific spaces that symbolise the city’s culture and identity. The potential locations range from the natural geology of the River Wear and the sea front, to the city’s industrial heritage or more contemporary settings such as the city centre that represent modern Sunderland.  The artistic content need not take the city’s past or even the chosen location’s original or current purpose as its inspiration, but it should respond with originality and inventiveness. 


  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong links with Sunderland
  • Ideally applicants will have had experience of creating exciting and engaging performances in unusual, found, or site-specific spaces but this is not compulsory.
  • The choice of performance site will rest with the artist, but it must feasibly offer a choice of live and/or digital sharing.
  • The performance site must be within the geographic boundary of the City of Sunderland
  • The locations may be buildings, structures or outdoor sites chosen with regard to public safety and Covid restrictions as well as landowner permissions.
  • Applicants proposals must ensure employment opportunities for at least 5 artistic, production and technical personnel
  • We particularly welcome applications from artists from diverse backgrounds and whose work supports our creative case ambitions
  • Sunderland Culture will work with the selected artists to co-commission additional digital artists in a collaboration that will bring their creativity and experience to the mix
  • Sunderland Culture would require each of the successful commissions to engage at least one Sunderland based artist in the early stage of their career.
  • If required, Sunderland Culture will endeavour to provide suitable in-kind space for rehearsal, recording or editing
  • Sunderland Culture will provide additional technical support to supplement the artists own technical team
  • Sunderland Culture will lead on marketing, PR and social media but expect the artist to support through their own networks.
  • Sunderland Culture will provide ticketing. front of house and screening options as required.

Commission Timetable

Deadline for applications                           Friday 16th April 2021

Shortlist Interviews/Selection                   w/c 26th April 2021

Production period                                       May / June 2021

Performance/digital sharing                      Summer 2021

Amount of Commission

Each commission is £15,000

  • This fee to cover all related performance costs e.g., personnel, set, props, costumes, lighting, sound etc.
  • The digital artist commissions are separate and cover costs in relation to filming, live streaming or other methods of digital sharing.
  • There is an additional budget managed by Sunderland Culture that provides added technical support, marketing, PR, social media, ticketing, front of house, public screenings, insurance.

How to Apply

If you have any questions or wish to discuss the commissions before submitting your application, please contact Helen Green at the email address below and she will be happy to arrange a telephone or Zoom call to discuss.

Applications may be submitted in one of the following formats:

  • written,
  • audio
  • video

to [email protected] answering the following questions:

  • Name of artist or organisation
  • Contact details
  • Your artistic idea

(Please describe your idea including how it will capture the post-pandemic public mood, an intended location, and ideas around live and digital presentation)

  • About You

(Please tell us about your links with Sunderland, a brief biography of the organisation or key artists involved as well as previous experience in delivering similar scale commissions in unusual, found, or site-specific locations)  

  • Please attach or include links to any reviews, videos, recordings etc of previous work
  • Please include an outline timetable for your project assuming commencement from May 2021
  • Please include an outline budget indicating your approach to managing it and how you envisage making the most of resources available/adding value
  • Please state how you will present your performance within the current Covid roadmap and how you will ensure health and safety. 

Please note, artists must have in place their own up to date Public Liability Insurance

The selection panel will include Sunderland Culture and external personnel and include community representation

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.