Food and drink operators are also agreeing terms at the scheme. Credit: Sunderland City Council

Southpaw signs as Sheepfolds Stables anchor

The dance company will be one of the first tenants to move into the £2m conversion of grade-two listed buildings, close to Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light.

Southpaw Dance Company specialises in large-scale, outdoor dance extravaganzas and theatre productions, particularly participatory mass movement spectaculars.

The company’s new home, currently being created by Sunderland-based architectural and engineering practice Building Design Northern, has also attracted tenants including Hairy Biker Si King; a Japanese fusion restaurant and Speyside Distillers, which will open a whisky and cigar lounge.

Sheepfolds Stables will open its doors later this year. Along with futher F&B units, it will house a large stage area.

Southpaw artistic director Robby Graham said: “We were talking to BDN’s MD Rick Marsden about an opening night performance and I thought what an amazing space the Sheepfolds Stables is going to be. When Rick showed me the space and his idea for what it will be, I was blown away.”

Graham added: “What’s happening in Sunderland – and the Sheepfolds development is part of it – is so exciting. Southpaw is all about connecting with audiences and working in community participation and there’s so much of this happening on Wearside right now.”

In addition to being a hub for Southpaw Dance Company, the new studio space at Sheepfolds Stables is envisioned as a unique addition to the Sunderland artistic landscape. With a multi-functional space that can host a variety of events and activities, Southpaw hopes to make the space available to other artists and companies. By encouraging collaborations and partnerships with other creatives, Southpaw aims to promote a thriving arts scene in Sunderland and beyond.

Marsden said: “We want to create a lively, animated space, where our visitors enjoy a unique experience, and that relies on us bringing together amazing occupiers and organisations. Sheepfolds is an exceptional space, and we are determined to present a diverse, exciting offering for all visitors when it opens its doors later this year – one that will raise the bar for Sunderland.”

A new pedestrian and cyclist crossing between Sheepfolds and the former Vaux Brewery site will connect Sheepfolds to Sunderland city centre. Planning permission was granted for the stables’ transformation in May 2022.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of the council, said: “This is such an exciting collaboration that will create a unique experience for people both from the city and those visiting.

“The venue will bring together a cornucopia of exciting occupiers, each bringing something different, and I’m delighted that Southpaw will be among them.”

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