Jump directly to main content

The Crack Magazine

martha hillfire.jpg

The Hottest Ticket In Town

Sunderland has an incredible new music venue in the shape of The Fire Station, and their line-up for the coming weeks and months will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and go “Woo! Woo! Woo!” Sunderland must have been very good this year, because Santa has granted it the first thing on their Christmas list: a £18m new venue. Oh, yeah! Of course, a new venue is like a fancy wine glass in that it’s only as good as the stuff you put in it, and – pleased to report – Fire Station have seen fit to crack open the good stuff.

Two of region’s most compelling live performers, Kathryn Tickell (with her band the Darkening) and The Lake Poets, will kick off the whole shebang with a unique collaboration that will bring the shamanic sounds of ancient Northumbria into the 21st century (10 December). Next up – and giving us an indication of the many different bases the venue will cover – will be the Royal Northern Sinfonia (featuring their new leader Maria Wloszczowska) who will perform a candle-lit Christmas concert (12 December). Then, fans of soul and gospel should brace themselves to be blown away when Mica Paris takes to the stage (15 December).

The venue will then be given an official opening when one of the region’s most feted bands, Field Music, present The Firestarters Revue, which will feature a truly sensational line up including Crack fave Martha Hill (pictured), Reali-T, and Faye Fantarrow, alongside Sunderland icons Barry Hyde and Ross Millard (The Futureheads) and Frankie Francis (17 December). Another Christmas cracker of a night will see Smoove & Turrell kick-starting the party season with their sizzling hot funk and soul. They will be ably supported by the Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir, MC Kay Greyson and Origin Crew dancers (19 December).

Needless to say, the quality treats don’t end in December with some show-stopping acts already lined-up for 2022. In January alone there will be turns from Teddy Thompson (son of Richard and Linda Thompson and now a renowned folk rock artist in his own right – 20 January); Richard Dawson (the local artist who has cemented his place as one of the most vital voices in the UK – 22 January); The Shires (an acoustic set from the UK country stars – 27 January); and the frankly amazing Allison Russell, the self-taught singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose debut album ‘Outside Child’ wowed critics earlier this year (28 January).

Looking further ahead I’d also pick out This Is The Kit (the indie musical project of Ivor Novello nominated singer-songwriter Kate Stables – 10 March); the highly anticipated show by former Maccabees frontman Orlando Weeks (13 March); Teesside’s finest Young ‘Uns (16 April); and two-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman (22 April).

As well as the music programme, the venue will also be staging theatrical performances and these include The Monocle, a newly commissioned piece by Rendez-Vous Dance Company, which is set in a 1930s Parisian nightclub (19 February); a production of Ibsen’s landmark play A Doll’s House by Elysium Theatre Company (17 February); and Human by the dynamic, disabled-led circus/theatre company Extraordinary Bodies (14 May).

Tamsin Austin, director of The Fire Station, commented: “It is so exciting to have a brand-new home for music and performing arts in the heart of Sunderland. We can’t wait to welcome people into what we hope will become a thriving community hub for audiences and for artists at The Fire Station. We are very grateful to Paul Callaghan and all at the MAC Trust for their vision, passion and determination to deliver this incredible new building for the city.”

If you’re looking for some stats – and I can tell that some of you are – then you should know the new state-of-the-art auditorium will programme up to 300 events a year – in music, theatre, comedy and dance. It can host up to 550 people, or up to 800 people standing, and will bring acclaimed national and international artists to Sunderland, as well as showcasing emerging and established local performers. In short: Sunderland has just got itself a new hot-spot. DP

The Fire Station, sunderlandculture.org.uk/our-venues/the-fire-station