Sage Gateshead

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Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead, viewed from the River Tyne
Location Gateshead Quays, UK
Coordinates 54°58′04″N 1°36′07″W / 54.9677°N 1.6020°W / 54.9677; -1.6020Coordinates: 54°58′04″N 1°36′07″W / 54.9677°N 1.6020°W / 54.9677; -1.6020
Type Concert venue, centre for musical education
Capacity 1,640 (Sage One), 600 (Sage Two)
Opened 17 December 2004
Construction cost £70 million

Sage Gateshead is a concert venue and also a centre for musical education, located in Gateshead on the south bank of the River Tyne, in the North East of England. It opened in 2004 and is occupied by the North Music Trust.[1]

The venue is part of the Gateshead Quays development, which also includes the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.


Sage Gateshead hosts concerts from a wide range of internationally famous artists, and those who have played at the venue include Above and Beyond, Blondie, James Brown, Bonobo, Andy Cutting, De La Soul, Nick Cave, George Clinton, Bill Callahan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dillinger, Gretchen Peters, Elbow, Explosions in the Sky, the Fall, Herbie Hancock, Mogwai, Morrissey, Mumford & Sons, Grace Jones, Sunn O))), Nancy Sinatra, Snarky Puppy, Sting, Yellowman, Josh Galley and others. In February 2015, it was one of the hosts of the second annual BBC Radio 6 Music Festival.

The interior of Hall 1

It is also home to Royal Northern Sinfonia, of which The Guardian wrote there is "no better chamber orchestra in Britain",[2] and frequently hosts other visiting orchestras from around the world. The current music director for Royal Northern Sinfonia is the pianist and conductor Lars Vogt. In late 2014, Royal Northern Sinfonia collaborated with John Grant, performing at Sage Gateshead and other venues throughout the UK. Recordings from this tour were made available as a limited edition CD and 12" record via Rough Trade Records in 2015.


Sage Gateshead, viewed from Newcastle
Sage Gateshead and the Tyne bridge

The centre occupies a curved glass and stainless steel building designed by Foster and Partners, Buro Happold (structural engineering), Mott MacDonald (building services) and Arup (acoustics), with views of Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides, the Tyne Bridge and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Foster and Partners were selected following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions.[citation needed]

Planning for the centre began in the early 1990s, when the orchestra of Sage Gateshead, Royal Northern Sinfonia, with encouragement from Northern Arts, began working on plans for a new concert hall. They were soon joined by regional folk music development agency Folkworks,[3] which ensured that the needs of the region's traditional music were taken into consideration and represented in Sage Gateshead's programme of concerts, alongside Rock, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop, classical, jazz, acoustic, indie, country and world,[4] Practice spaces for professional musicians, students and amateurs were an important part of the provision.[3][4]

The planning and construction process cost over £70 million, which was raised primarily through National Lottery grants. The contractor was Laing O'Rourke.[5] The centre has a range of patrons, notably Sage Group which contributed a large sum of money to have the building named after it. Sage plc has helped support the charitable activities of Sage Gateshead since its conception. The venue opened over the weekend 17–19 December 2004.[6]

Sage Gateshead is also available as a conference venue: for example it hosted the Labour Party's Spring conference in February 2005.[7] It also hosted the Liberal Democrat Party conference in March 2012.[8] In August 2009, the National Union of Students announced that their 2010 and 2011 National Conferences would be held at Sage Gateshead.

The building[edit]

Interior view
Sage Two

Sage Gateshead contains three performance spaces; a 1,700-seater, a 450-seater, and a smaller rehearsal and performance hall, the Northern Rock Foundation Hall. The rest of the building was designed around these three spaces to allow for maximum attention to detail in their acoustic properties. Structurally it is three separate buildings, insulated from each other to prevent noise and vibration travelling between them. The gaps between them may be seen as one walks around inside. A special 'spongy' concrete mix was used in the construction, with a higher-than-usual air capacity to improve the acoustic.[3] These three buildings are enclosed (but not touched) by the now-famous glass and steel shell. Sage One was intended as an acoustically perfect space, modelled on the renowned Musikverein in Vienna.[9] Its ceiling panels may be raised and lowered and curtains drawn across the ribbed wooden side walls, changing the sound profile of the room to suit any type of music.[10] Sage Two is a smaller venue, possibly the world's only ten-sided performance space.[3] The building's concourse was designed to be used for informal music-making. Below the concourse level is the Music Education Centre, where workshops, community music courses and day-to-day instrumental teaching takes place in over 20 individual, largely sound-proofed rooms, one of which is also a recording studio.

The building is open to the public throughout the day.[11] Visitors can see rehearsals, soundchecks and workshops in progress. It has five bars, a brasserie, the "Sir Michael Straker Café", and "The Barbour Room" – a multi-purpose function room which holds around 200 people. There was also "ExploreMusic": a technologically well-equipped musical branch of Gateshead public library, stocking books, and current magazines covering all aspects of music, a CD library with listening posts, and computers with free internet access, subscriptions to music websites, and music software. However this was closed in March 2011 owing to funding cutbacks to Gateshead Council, who funded this particular part of the building.[citation needed]

The fact that the main entrance doors to the western end of the building are still not working properly, seven years after the building's opening, was described as "disappointing" by the centre's then general manager Anthony Sargent in the North Music Trust's 2010-11 annual report.[12] As of February 2012 significant work has begun on improving the entire Western entrance to the building, including brand new disabled and fire access doors and reinforced revolving doors. As of March 2012 this has now been completed. Sargent stepped down in 2014 and was replaced by Abigail Pogson.

The architectural competition[edit]

Sage Gateshead was developed by Foster and Partners following an architectural design competition launched in 1997 and managed by RIBA Competitions. Over 100 architects registered their interest and 12 – a mixture of local, national and international talent – were invited to prepare concept designs. A shortlist of six was then interviewed with Foster and Partners unanimously selected as the winner. The Design has gone on to win a number of awards: the RIBA Inclusive Design Award, Civic Trust Award [13] and The Journal North East Landmark of the Year Award.[14]


Sage Gateshead under construction and its position on the quayside

There has been popular debate surrounding Sage Gateshead. There is a broad base of local support for the centre, including cross-party backing from local government. Conversely, some feel that the money might be better spent on improving Gateshead's High Street.[6] However, the money made available to the project build via Lottery Grants would not have been used for such general improvements to the area regardless. The venue is popular in the local area because of its concerts but also for its accessible learning courses for all ages and its constant interaction with local schools and academies through programmes such as Sing Up and the option of school visits.[15]

The building itself has its admirers and detractors. While many people, including locals, hold it to be a fine example of Norman Foster's design, others draw comparisons with a large slug. Gavin Stamp, writing as "Piloti" in Private Eye's Nooks and Corners column, suggested that the structure resembles a "shiny condom".[16]

Sage Gateshead has won many awards, including the Local Authority Building of the Year in the 2005 British Construction Industry Awards and the RIBA Award for Inclusive Design[17] as well as Private Eye's "Hugh Casson" medal for the worst building of 2004.[18]


NUS National Conference[edit]

On 18 August 2009, Sage Gateshead was selected to host the 2010 and 2011 National Union of Students annual conference.[19] The 2010 Annual Conference took place 13–15 April 2010[20] and attracted approximately 1,500 student delegates and over 300 observers, exhibitors and media.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ North Music Trust accounts at Charity Commission website
  2. ^ 'Royal Northern Sinfonia/ Zehettmair review' Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 20 October 2013
  3. ^ a b c d "Welcome to Sage Gateshead". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  4. ^ a b "The Sage Gateshead: Introduction". The Sage Gateshead website. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  5. ^ Mott MacDonald website Archived 12 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b "BBC NEWS - England - Tyne - Visitors grab chance to view Sage". 2004-12-18. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  7. ^ "BBC NEWS - England - Tyne - Region boosts business reputation". BBC. 2005-02-08. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Another day, another breathtaking creation from Norman Foster - This Britain, UK". London: The Independent on Sunday. 2004-12-17. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  10. ^ "Sound Space Design: S A G E project". Sound Space Design. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2008. 
  11. ^ "Sage Gateshead". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  12. ^ North Music Trust annual report 2010-11 Archived 13 January 2012 at the UK Government Web Archive
  13. ^ Civic Trust Award
  14. ^ The Journal North East Landmark of the Year Award
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Sage fights back over wisecrack.(News) - Article from The Journal hats (Newcastle, England) (Abstract)". Highbeam Research. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  17. ^ "Sage Gateshead". Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  18. ^ Worst Building of 2004
  19. ^ "NUS moves annual conference to North East". Conference & Incentive Travel. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  20. ^ "NUS Events". NUS Officer Online. Archived from the original on 2006-02-20. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  21. ^ "Double delight as NUS Annual Conference venue is announced". NUS The national voice of students. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 

In the novel SAND DANCER by Nick Warren, The Sage is destroyed(along with some other Newcastle landmarks and various targets in the surrounding area) in a massive terrorist attack. The chapter in which this occurs describes some characters escaping while the building is weakened and ultimately collapses after a boat load of explosives on the Tyne is detonated. Book is available at

External links[edit]