Sunderland Empire shortlisted for the Autism Professionals Awards

The Creative Learning team at Sunderland Empire Theatre has been shortlisted for the National Autistic Society’s prestigious Autism Professionals Awards.

The Creative Learning team is one of three finalists in the Award for Inspirational Education Provision (Other). They were shortlisted by an independent panel of 10 autism experts who commended them for going “above and beyond” in their work to provide opportunities to autistic people and their families.

Over the past 4 years, the Creative Learning team at Sunderland Empire have strived to deliver unique projects with the autism community, both at Sunderland Empire and through outreach across the Sunderland area. The key remit for these projects is to deliver interesting, leading and exceptional work in autism access and creative learning engagement.

In 2015, the Creative Learning team were successful in achieving Arts Council funding to support ‘Get Curious!’ This Family Learning project was delivered in Partnership with National Theatre and their acclaimed production the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, supported by local cultural organisations from across Sunderland.

Over the past year alone, the team have supported 1,239 in accessing as audiences at Relaxed and Supported experience performances, and 723 instances of people with Autism accessing creative learning.

The astounding outcomes of this very special project based learning have resulted in the identification across the UK of this project as a unique example of best practise. The close working relationships forged continue to grow and the Creative Learning team have developed an Autism-specific youth theatre in collaboration with No Limits Theatre. The project has been instrumental in leading Sunderland towards having a city wide autism friendly family offer, specifically across the Sunderland Family Arts Network.

Sunderland Empire is managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), the largest owner/operator of theatres in the UK, internationally recognised theatre producer and leader in theatre ticketing services, on behalf of the Sunderland Empire Trust and is supported by Sunderland City Council.

Karen Townsend, Head of Learning and Access at the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) said:

“At ATG we believe everyone has the right to experience the joy of live theatre, whether through watching or performing. The Creative Learning team at Sunderland Empire have designed a brilliant delivery programme that demonstrates our commitment to this. The whole company is proud of what is being delivered at Sunderland Empire, whose engagement activities for those on the Autistic Spectrum, their families and friends continues to thrive and develop.”

The Autism Professionals Awards have been created to recognise and reward services and professionals who are leading the way in innovative autism practice and making a real difference to the lives of autistic people in the UK.

The Awards seek to acknowledge the outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals, teams and organisations who have demonstrated excellence, dedication and commitment to improving the lives of autistic people.

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: “We run the Autism Professionals Awards each year to celebrate the people, projects and organisations making a difference to the lives of autistic people and their families in the UK.

“The standard of nominations is always very high so Sunderland Empire Theatre should be commended for impressing the judges and being shortlisted.

“Autism can have a profound effect on individuals and families but the right support from passionate and caring people and organisations can make all the difference. It’s important that we recognise the amazing people who provide this support so we can share best practice and inspire others.”

To find out more information about the awards please visit