Anthony Sargent of Sage, Gateshead: 'Audiences should feel they're coming into their own homes'

29 January 2015, 16:10 | Updated: 15 December 2016, 11:50

The venue's General Director reflects on its extraordinary success, ten years after it opened in the Tyne and Wear town.

A decade after its opening, Sage Gateshead is going from strength to strength. The innovative Foster + Partners building has become a national landmark and its mission to enrich people’s lives through music has transformed music-making throughout the North-East.

"There's a real relationship of trust that we built with the community that we exist to serve, and it doesn't happen by itself," says General Director Anthony Sargent CBE, who has been at Sage Gateshead since the beginning. "It's quite a conscious thing.” 

Sargent has been speaking to Classic FM's Jane Jones during the annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras, being held at the venue.

He says that early on they adopted a policy of treating visitors to Sage as if "they were coming into their own home." 

"The way the local community feels about coming here, it feels like an extension of their own family," he says.

The same welcoming approach is adopted throughout the organisation – from the General Director, to an usher, to a violinist in the Royal Northern Sinfonia. 

“This stuff has to be modeled from the top," Sargent tells Jane Jones.

In his opening speech to the conference, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey reserved high praise for Sage and its impact on the community.

Sargent believes the Minister "probably sees in us the sort of international quality and brand profile – coupled with really powerful local roots and community relationships – that mirrors the way he looks at culture himself."

Sargent is moving on from his post this May and says that, while he is proud of the world-class acts he has brought to the venue, the moment he will remember most fondly is when they arranged for a lorry load of musical instruments to be taken to a Newcastle primary school that Sage works with.

“The look on the faces of those children...” Sargent says, “it looked as if magic was happening before their eyes. They could suddenly see they were going to be entrusted with a musical instrument, and they were going to be taught and, they were going to become part of an orchestra and it was going to change their lives.”

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