Sage Gateshead has issued its Annual Review for the year 2019/2020. Having overlapped Covid-19 restrictions by just two weeks it is a picture of life and music as it was before the pandemic hit.

The Annual Review details activities and their impacts including Sage Gateshead’s Young People’s Summer Festival, In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead, its Artist Development work and Summer Studios, the performances of Royal Northern Sinfonia and its inclusive ensemble RNS Moves, and some 350 performances given by Contemporary artists including Nick Cave, Kamasi Washington and k.d. lang.

But what seems staggering now, almost a year after the pandemic started, are some of the numbers shared – 274,734 audience for live ticketed events, 501 performances in Sage Gateshead and beyond, and 430,863 visitors to the building.

A picture of freelance musicians’ opportunities pre-pandemic is laid bare through details such as the 243 artists supported through Artist Development programmes and the 77 events which showcased emerging artists.

And the central, embedded role of Sage Gateshead locally is brought to life through the impact it has on many diverse communities and people across Newcastle, Gateshead and the North: 257 free community events, reaching 20,071 people; 3,211 Make Music classes delivered; the work with 222 schools, the instruments given to children, the arts awards and qualifications earned by students and the over 5,500 weekly class participants.

The scale is unescapable. As is the impact:

“It really does help to lift the spirits… it makes you feel good and we look forward to it so much.” Well Tuned participant

“Coming here has changed my life. I feel happier, I have matured and become more confident.” Graeme, Music Spark Traineeship graduate

Today the building is closed, like it was for almost all of last year. But the work continues online to deliver classes and to support artists, to produce streamed concerts when possible, and to continue serving its communities while planning for the future of Sage Gateshead and the North East.

Today Sage Gateshead shares how its focus will move towards recovery, launching the next stage of its three-year fundraising campaign Crisis, Recovery and Renaissance which aims to raise £1million this year, and £3million over the 2020-23 period.

If the campaign meets this target, its supporters will have ensured Sage Gateshead not only survives but will have adapted to a new world and provided substantial community benefit throughout the pandemic. This will mean the organisation can continue to bring extraordinary live music experiences to the North East into the future.

Abigail Pogson, Managing Director of Sage Gateshead said “Our way out of Covid-19 will set our future direction, charting a course towards the middle of the 21st century. Arts and culture can and should play a vital role in Covid-recovery: in re-establishing social connections, in uplifting and creating hope, in improving mental health and wellbeing, in drawing people to city, town and village centres, in creating jobs and in helping us make sense of a confusing and complex world. 

“We know that the North East of England has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic – in health, social and economic impact. And as a consequence, it needs a well-co-ordinated and long-term approach to recovery. Our aim over this period will be to play a useful and active role in recovery and in setting a new course for our region to thrive. 

“This will be at a time when communities in the North need us more than ever, and we want to have the ability to meaningfully respond. Music plays a vital role in improving health and wellbeing, education and learning, and in creating positive shared experiences. We want to retain and support the wealth of musical talent across the region for the benefit of all.”

Sage Gateshead’s priorities through this Recovery year will be:

Support artists to make extraordinary music – from jazz to folk, from electronic to classical – which will be from the North and for the whole region, country and world to enjoy. Through: 

o  Realising a new vision for our orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia

o  Creating a new hub where artists can create, collaborate and develop

o  Investing in digital equipment so people can connect with artists and music in new ways

Ensure all children and young people from our region can find joy, develop life skills and build careers in and through music. Through: 

o  Creating a unified learning programme of classes, projects and performances for young musicians

o  Reimagining our hall, Sage Two, as a year-round development centre for future talent

o  Investing in the digital delivery of our learning programme

Support our communities’ wellbeing, making live music part of everyone’s life. Through: 

o  Asking people in the North East how they see the future of live music

o  Involving communities in decisions about our future work 

o  Creating new projects for our communities to make music together

Abigail Pogson continued: “60% of our income comes from concerts, classes and events – this income stopped overnight. A further 20% of our income is impacted by this crisis.

“Despite these significant challenges, we are deeply committed to responding to the needs of our communities during this crisis. And we are also committed to strengthening our organisation’s long-term impact. We have ambitious plans for our future, and we want to start work on our Recovery and Renaissance in 2021-23. 

“The generosity of our patrons, supporters, corporate partners, trusts, foundations and audiences has protected this organisation through the most extraordinary year many of us have experienced. We owe them a huge debt of thanks. As we look to play our role in the recovery, building a new, fairer future, and enriching lives through access to live music, we ask those who can do so, to continue to support us in playing this vital role for the North East.”