Austin to head Sunderland’s Fire Station

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Tamsin Austin, head of contemporary music at Sage Gateshead, is to be the first director of Sunderland’s £11m new arts centre, The Fire Station.

The venue, due to open this autumn and being delivered by Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC), will present music, theatre, comedy and dance in its 460-seat auditorium, with an outdoor space that allows for social distancing.

The Fire Station, next to the 1800-seat Sunderland Empire, is a key part of the cultural transformation of Sunderland’s Edwardian city centre. 

“I have watched the cultural landscape unfold in Sunderland over the past few years and there is a huge amount of energy, will and purpose there” Austin said. “It's an ambitious city with deep musical roots and a rich family of musicians, cultural leaders, entrepreneurs, and audiences who are hugely invested in the new venue, which will become a new home and community hub for live music and arts in the heart of the city.

“The Fire Station (above) is a beautifully-designed auditorium and its flexibility will give great scope for a diverse and exciting programme of live concerts, festivals, theatre, dance and comedy, and will delight local people as well as put Sunderland on the map nationally and internationally.”

Originally from the North-West she moved to the North-East in 1991 to study at the University of Northumbria. After working as an artists’ agent and a freelance music programmer, and then five years programming The Arches venue in Glasgow, she was a founding member of the team that opened Sage Gateshead in 2004.

“The Fire Station will be a major cultural asset for everyone in the city, and in Tamsin we have the right person to exploit its flexibility and ensure we have programmes to do the venue justice” said Rebecca Ball, Sunderland Culture creative director. “This appointment and the opening of The Fire Station is another milestone in establishing the city as a major centre for arts and culture.”


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