Performance celebrates the music icon receiving Freedom of the Borough of North Tyneside and marks completion of a £1m+ refurbishment
North East icon and multi-award winning musician Sting was the first ever artist to perform at North Shields cultural venue, The Exchange 1856, following completion of a £1m+ refurbishment programme.
Sting performed a stunning set, featuring songs from his illustrious catalogue to a specially invited crowd, who were there to see him receive the Freedom of the Borough award, the highest accolade any local authority can bestow and is in recognition of his incredible global achievements and advocacy for North Tyneside.
Following a change of operator earlier this year, The Exchange 1856 on Howard Street, North Shields, now open to the public, has undergone extensive renovations, transforming the 167-year-old building back to its former glory and creating a world-class community space offering entertainment, health and wellbeing, culture, food and drink, weddings and business in the heart of North Shields.
Every part of the historic local landmark has been refurbished and improved – from the 500-capacity auditorium with the most technologically advanced lighting, sound and visual systems to newly created conferencing and events spaces for meetings, fitness sessions, dance classes and weddings.
Throughout The Exchange 1856, original features such as ornate architraves, Victorian fireplaces and stained-glass windows have been carefully restored and complemented with sumptuous new fixtures and fittings, polished wooden floors and décor, in keeping with the building’s unique character.
The Thomas Brown room, which celebrates the life of a local hero, has been given the ‘Wow’ factor with decorative wall panelling, new marble floor and feature marble fireplace. And the old bar / café has also been transformed and renamed Brown’s to create a relaxed, unpretentious restaurant, bar, outdoor courtyard and pavement café.
To celebrate its opening, The Exchange 1856 also unveiled its brand-new 2024 programme of events featuring everything from popular music acts to family-friendly performances, pantos and charity gigs. Full details of the 2024 line-up can be found on The Exchange 1856 website.
Paul Stonebanks OBE, the new operator of The Exchange 1856, said: “Seeing Sting perform and honored at The Exchange 1856 was fantastic and an apt event to mark the opening of our amazing venue.
“We’ve had some of the region’s most outstanding craftsman working day and night to transform this beautiful historic building back to its former glory for the benefit of the entire community.
“Significant investment has gone into making The Exchange 1856 a world-class, multi-cultural asset for local people – one that everyone can be incredibly proud of. In the auditorium alone, we’ve installed state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video equipment to make The Exchange 1856 the most technologically advanced venue of its type across the UK.
“For me, The Exchange 1856 is so outstanding and unique, it is imperative it connects with everyone and becomes a place for the local community. We want it to be a place where people want to hold their weddings, birthday celebrations, meet friends, enjoy a nice meal, be entertained and do business.
“We want The Exchange 1856 to become a place that brings people together to build stronger connections – making North Tyneside a better place to live, work and play for the local community now and for future generations.
“We are looking forward to showcasing the venue to local people and want to thank everyone in the community, our partners, and our stakeholders for all their patience and support during this period of construction and change. We hope they’ll agree the finished project has been well worth the wait.”
The seven-figure refurbishment of the Exchange 1856 by Stonebanks Investments builds upon previous investment from North Tyneside Council, Historic England and ongoing support from North Shields Cultural Quarter, funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority.
Cllr Carl Johnson, Deputy Mayor for North Tyneside and cabinet member responsible for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “Exchange 1856 is at the heart of the North Shields Cultural Quarter. It is a key partner in North Tyneside Council’s Ambition for North Shields, which aims to create a smaller, more vibrant town centre with more flexible retail opportunities, expanding the evening and weekend economy and improving the quality of public space in the town.
“We are delighted to see the stunning results of this refurbishment and look forward to seeing how Exchange 1856 enhances the cultural life of North Shields, with an offer ranging from theatrical performances to spaces for community groups to meet.”