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Live Theatre receives support from The Virgin Money Foundation to launch free storytelling workshops for schools at Sunderland’s The Fire Station

Live Theatre will start to deliver its successful Live Tales workshops for school classes at The Fire Station, Sunderland’s new arts music and arts hub from April 2018 thanks to a £300,000 grant from the Virgin Money Foundation. Young people from across Wearside will have access to free drama and writing activities in a brand new venue within the regenerated Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Quarter in the Edwardian heart of Sunderland.

Live Theatre is one of the anchor tenants for the newly refurbished Fire Station, Sunderland’s new music and arts hub. From April 2018 it will offer free story writing workshops in state of the art facilities rolling out workshops for Key Stage 2 (KS2) and KS3 classes.

The award to support the Live Tales programme will enable a creative and dynamic workshop space to be at the centre of the regenerated Fire Station, ensuring that local children are among the beneficiaries of this flagship regeneration programme.

Live Tales workshops were launched at Live Theatre in Newcastle in September 2016, to inspire young people to embrace creativity and build confidence through story-writing. Through a mixture of drama and writing activities, classes collaborate to create a completely original story. Each child continues the story individually and receives an illustrated storybook to complete at school.

The £300,000 grant over two years from The Virgin Money Foundation’s Ripple Fund will enable Live Theatre to equip the studio space at The Fire Station for creative writing workshops, and to research and launch the project ahead of the first workshops from April 2018. The workshops are supported by volunteers who help the children develop their stories, with over 100 volunteers already helping with the workshops on Tyneside. Live Theatre hopes to engage further volunteers on Wearside.

Live Theatre will work with The Virgin Money Foundation to provide opportunities for young people from across Sunderland to be involved with the MAC Quarter. Virgin Money staff will contribute to building the sustainability and effectiveness of the work through a range of volunteering activities, from supporting the delivery of the workshops to providing pro-bono professional support.

Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director of The Virgin Money Foundation said:

“The MAC Quarter is an exciting piece of regeneration for Sunderland, rich in culture and enterprise. The Virgin Money Foundation was set up to support the regeneration of communities and we are excited about the opportunity to be a partner in the MAC Quarter, working beyond the funding to ensure the whole community will benefit from the new facilities and improved economy. Storytelling can be a window to the world for many children, we hope that it will also be a doorway to many years of participation in Sunderland’s MAC Quarter.”

Jim Beirne, Chief Executive, Live Theatre said:

“Live Theatre was delighted to be invited to be part of MAC Quarter in Sunderland and share our creative experience. We are keen to develop an educational offer relevant to young people in Wearside. We are delighted to be able to offer creative writing workshops for school classes and community groups at our new base at The Fire Station, which will be free thanks to support of the Virgin Money Foundation’s Ripple Fund.”

Paul Callaghan, Chair of the MAC Trust, Sunderland said:

“We are delighted to be able to work with Live Theatre to offer their tried and tested Live Tales workshops to young people in Sunderland. Their story writing workshops are clearly developing the creative and literacy skills of young people, improving their life chances, and increasing their aspirations, which in the long term will aid the regeneration of Wearside.”

Live Tales workshops attracted over 1,500 pupils from 50 classes in its first year in Newcastle. Live Theatre’s work with young people was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution Award at the North East Youth Work Awards and awarded Investors in Children status for its child-led approach. It has the largest free drama education and participation programme in the region.

By investing in local children’s creativity, The Virgin Money Foundation will be funding activity that could have a ripple effect into artistic output in the future and through the raised aspirations and increased opportunities of local Sunderland children.

Schools and Community Groups interested in finding out more about Live Tales should see and join Live Theatre’s mailing list to be informed when the workshops are available to book.

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  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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