Festival paves the way for churches future

Holy_Trinity_Church_Sunderland,_Tyne_and_Wear 

The first New Writing Festival visited an old Sunderland landmark at the weekend.

The Theatre Space North East Company came to the Holy Trinity Church, also known as The CannySpace, in Sunderland’s East End at the weekend to showcase stories, poetry and plays about Sunderland history, using the church as their backdrop.

The companies Artistic Director Corrine Kilvington, 33, said: “We are very interested in this space, it has a lot of history and a lot of ties to Sunderland. It’s really an inspirational and beautiful space.”

Writer and actor David Farn, 59, from Houghton-Le-Spring wrote three pieces that were performed at the event, including a piece called Hero of Camperdown, which tells the story of the Sunderland hero Jack Crawford. He said: “As writers, we were invited along to come and look at the building and sense some of the history of the place.”

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1719 and is one of the oldest churches in the North East region. The Grade I listed building is approaching its 300-year anniversary, and now the Church Conservative Trust has submitted a £2.4 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to turn the space into a better performing arts space.

Amanda Gerry, 47, the Development Manager for The CannySpace, said: “The repair build is huge and we can’t do the repairs that we want with the donations and funding that we have as a trust.”  The church has held several events over the past six months to raise money for repairs but also to discover what attracts people to the church. In March, the Theatre Space Company held a production of 39 Steps that received rave reviews.

When discussing the movement to draw people in to the new cultural hub, Gerry said: “Today will help us find out what people want, we have been doing it over the last six months for kids to adult-only events and it has increased the footfall by over 200 per cent.”

If the Heritage Lottery Fund approve the bid, specialised conservation contract workers will be brought in along with workers, who must be local, to help with the project. Gerry said: “It will boost the economy and give people transferable skills.”

The Church Conservative Trust is currently recruiting volunteers, if you want to know more or get involved please contact Amanda Gerry on agerry@thecct.org.uk or telephone 07881106330.#####

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