Sunderland Empire

Sunderland Empire Theatre - part of Ambassador Theatre Group 

Sunderland Empire is a Grade II listed Edwardian building situated within the heart of Sunderland City Centre. Known as 'The West End of The North East' the theatre is famous for it's programme of high profile musicals and dramatic performances as well as a venue for local performers including theatre and dance schools of the region. 

The Creative Learning & Community Partnerships Team at the Sunderland Empire is dedicated to providing opportunities for theatre makers and theatre audiences to access the arts. Working with young people, adults, community groups, schools, and families to facilitate a full programme of arts events throughout the year. Our programme includes nationally significant projects with partners such as National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Youth Music and Arts Council England as well as a full programme of weekly groups attended by a diverse range of families and individuals within the local community. 

Our weekly groups include:

  •  Movers (65+): Ballet and Contemporary Dance sessions for adults aged 65+. Movers has been running at the Sunderland Empire Theatre for 5 years and has grown considerably in that time from 1 class to 4, including an outreach group newly installed in the Coalfields area of Sunderland (generously funded by Coalfields SIB Fund) and 3 sessions within Sunderland Empire.

Feedback from Movers across the group have relayed that the class is a fantastic way for older members of the community to combat loneliness and social isolation by meeting new friends and learning new skills, as well professing the group as a great way to improve strength and fitness. CLCP are proud to share that 75 people attend a Movers group each week, travelling from across the North East. 

  • Community Chorus (adults): 50 members each week learn vocal technique whilst singing in harmonies from a diverse 'hymn sheet' which includes classical arrangements, popular music and folk songs. Chorus has recently performed at Durham Cathedral as well as at Tall Ships Festival 2018. 
  • Curious Connections (13-18yrs): Relaxed youth theatre suitable for young people with additional needs such as Autism. The group explore a range of performance skills and develop skills in communication, increase confidence and make new friends. The group has been instrumental in provided a support network for the families of participants. 
  • Connect Up (18+): A relaxed theatre group suitable for adults with Special Educational Needs / Disabilities including Autism. Conscious of providing a provision for adults 18+, CLCP launched Connect Up  in January 2019. This group provides a safe space for members to build confidence and learn new skills through the medium of drama and performance.  
  • Fusion Project (13- 16yrs) Community youth theatre where members learn a 'fusion' of performance skills and techniques including an exploration of physical theatre, improvisation and devising new material. 

CLCP also offer pre-show family activities for appropriate shows: 'Get Creative' events have given families opportunities to take part in show themed crafts and games prior to a performance in order to engage more fully with their theatre experience. 

CLCP coordinate venue scale tours for the general public throughout the year, providing the opportunity for families to engage with the productions which visit the theatre, the history of the Empire as well as our theatre's place within local heritage. During the festive period we also host our fantastic 'Fairy Tale Tours' taking families on a Panto themed adventure throughout our venue, where attendees are urged to join our tour guide in the search for hidden clues, to help solve the mystery so that the show can go on!

Creative Learning & Community Partnerships deliver locally driven cultural education engagement with National significance!

Located across UK regional venues and in the heart of the West End, our Creative Learning teams deliver extraordinary and award-winning activities & experiences that engage the community, the education sector and our audiences.

Mission & Objective

Creative Learning & Community Partnerships are an important part of ATG’s commitment to delivering excellence in all aspects of community and educational engagement. Unlocking the potential of all that our venues can offer, our teams are a valuable leading resource in the world of cultural education.   

Our activities & experiences engage, accommodate and empower people of all abilities, ages, genders, races and socio-economic backgrounds.

Our Impact

Over the last 5 years, Creative Learning & Community Partnerships initiatives have been experienced by more than 100,000 people across the UK.

We have raised over £258,302 over in funding and sponsorship in the last 2 years, which enables us to deliver a programme that reaches those most in need.

Our work is supported by 53 partnership organisations across the UK – from the productions who visit our theatres to community organisations, charities and other cultural bodies.

What we do...

Our programme delivered across the UK is vibrant and reflective of the current educational landscape, underpinned by our 5 programme categories

  1. Locality
  2. Diversity
  3. Partnership
  4. Show Related
  5. Group Annual Campaign


This is offered through locally-led programmes which respond to specific needs and opportunity, taking place in our inspiring venues and on outreach at events, festivals, in schools and community settings

  • Theatre & Mixed Art form Workshops
  • Tours of venues & behind the scenes
  • Performances & Events
  • Q&A’s with industry professionals
  • Master Classes
  • Weekly groups
  • Teacher & Professional CPD 
  • Accredited programmes
  • Work related learning

 Ambassador Theatre Group

An extraordinary success story, ATG was founded in 1992 and is now the world’s number one live-theatre company, with close to 50 venues in Britain, The United States, Australia and Germany.

ATG’s portfolio of historic West End theatres includes the Apollo Victoria, Duke of York’s, Fortune, Harold Pinter, Lyceum, Phoenix, Piccadilly, Playhouse, Savoy and Trafalgar Studios, whilst across the UK, ATG has regional theatres in major cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Sunderland Empire.

Find us at...

  • Sunderland Empire
  • 4-5 High Street West
  • Sunderland
  • SR1 3EX


Booking Information:

Access Booking line: 0800 912 6971

All bookings made may be subject to booking fees and a transaction charge.

A Sunderland Empire Visual Guide (Social Story) is available prior to your visit to us by emailing

A symbol resource on going to the pantomime is available to download here.

If you would like to be kept updated about future Assisted Performances by email, please contact

Venue Access Information

Wheelchair Access: There are eight spaces in the stalls where wheelchair users can remain in their wheelchairs. Access is on the flat via a lift. Alternatively patrons may wish to transfer to a fixed seat, a member of staff can store a vacated wheelchair in the nearest bar area. Please note that patrons must be able to vacate the building quickly in case of evacuation. If you are unsure of the best option for you, please discuss this with our Box Office or Ticket Centre staff when booking.

Please note that the Upper Circle and Gallery are not accessible by lift and are therefore unsuitable for those with limited mobility.

Access Performances


War Horse Captioned:  Thu 19th February 2019 - 7.30pm

War Horse Audio Described: Thu 14th February 2019 - 7.30pm

War Horse BSL: Thu 20th February 2019 - 7.30pm

Cinderella Relaxed Performance: Mon 30th Dec 2019 - 5:00pm

Cinderella BSL: Thu 2nd January 2020 - 7:00pm

Signer position is subject to change without notice.

Supported Experiences 

During a supported experience usual arrangements are in place within the auditorium, including latecomer’s rules, and there are no technical adjustments to the performance.

Families should expect pyros, possible strobes and loud sound effects. Those who are sensory sensitive are advised to bring any equipment needed for support e.g. ear defenders.

This is not a Relaxed Performance.

What we can offer is:
  • Quiet spaces.
  • TV relay of the performance in Dress Circle bar.
  • Preparation pack available – Visual Story and Widget symbol resource, explanation of the story and characters.
  • Familiarisation visits can be arranged.
  • Supportive staff attending will be present.
  • Early entry into Auditorium may be able to be arranged but not guaranteed.
  • Families are urged to get in touch with us to explain what specific support they need to help support their visit.

To be kept up to date, please email For all performances, there is a Sennheiser infrared system available in all areas of the auditorium. This can be used with or without a hearing aid. When you arrive at the theatre, please speak to a member of our Front of House team who will give you the equipment and show you how to use it. Please note there is a fully refundable £10 deposit for the loan of the equipment.

Guide, hearing and other working dogs are welcome in all parts of the theatre.

Accessible toilets are located at the Stalls and Dress Circle levels and in the stalls bar as you enter the theatre.


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