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Arts Centre Washington is located in the new town of Washington which sits in a position of equal distance between Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham. The area has its roots in mining, the last pit closing in the area in the 1980’s. Going even further back, the ancestors of George Washington who lived locally gave the area its name and one of the most famous north east legends, The Lambton Worm, supposedly took place a stones throw from the arts centre.
The arts centre itself is a converted 19th century farm, a ruin rescued at the time of the development of the new town in 1972 when it was decided that a centre for arts and culture should be included in the vision for the area. Originally called Biddick Farm Arts Centre, it has gone through several incarnations to become what is now a vibrant multi-arts centre that hosts a theatre, gallery, rehearsal rooms, artist’s studios, recording studio, café and award winning bar. It is now owned and managed by Sunderland City Council.
Arts Centre Washington has a very distinct character. The Gallery, which forms the central creative hub of the building, is a light and airy raftered space whilst the 110 seat theatre is converted from the main barn and retains its original stone walls and unique atmosphere. Another barn has been converted into a multifunctional space that is used for a variety of purposes whilst the cowsheds now serve as a block of artist’s studios. The café/bar in the courtyard allows customers to spill out into the sunshine on hot, summer days.
Arts Centre Washington exists to provide a mixed programme of artistic events and activities for all members of its community to experience and participate in the arts. Events include theatre, music, dance and comedywith Saturday nights in the Low Barn playing host to the award winning Davy Lamp Folk Club. There is also a packed programme of Classes and Courses – activities for all ages to take part in from salsa to sequence dancing; model making to messy play.
Arts Centre Washington’s main funder is Sunderland City Council with funding for special programmes and projects provided by Arts Council England and the Northern Rock Foundation.