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Here for the Earth - Sage Gateshead Joins Music Declares Emergency

Posted on 15 November 2021

SG Building


  • Having significantly lowered its emissions over 9 years, Sage Gateshead now looks to help reduce emissions related to travel, the broader music industry and its supply chain
  • Sage Gateshead embraces the future of working with international artists to address climate crisis by joining Music Declares Emergency among other efforts
  • Sage Gateshead continues to encourage use of public transport by offering free Metro Travel to audiences with purchase of Sage Gateshead concert tickets in a bid to reduce emissions

Sage Gateshead, the iconic international music centre in the North East, is exploring how it can continue to connect worldwide artists with its audiences while taking an active role within the music industry to eliminate emissions and transition to a net-zero society.

At a time when the impacts of the climate crisis are being discussed at the highest level at COP26 in Glasgow and felt throughout the world, Sage Gateshead today announced that it has signed up to Music Declares Emergency alongside a programme of actions to reduce emissions across its activities.

Music Declares Emergency is a coalition of musicians, music industry professionals, and organisations who have come together to declare a climate emergency and demand government action to protect all life on Earth. By Joining Music Declares Emergency, the charity’s declaration reads:

Sage Gateshead understands the climate crisis is a critical threat to our audiences, artists, region and planet. We will put environmental responsibility at the heart of our venue, working with artists and audiences to reduce emissions and make change.

Sage Gateshead’s first digital mini-festival, Variations, resonates with the immediacy of COP26 and collective attention on climate change. Contemporary artists Anonhi & Yoko Ono, John Grant, Moor Mother, and Tune-Yards each created a new work that expresses love for the world, all species, and the air we breathe. The songs reflect grief and loss when the world we know and love is no longer there, as well as an urgent demand for justice and equality, and an appeal to collaborate, imagine change, and act immediately.

In line with its pledge to the planet, Sage Gateshead has been focusing on how to further reduce emissions from travel of both audiences and artists. Welcoming 500,000 people through its doors each year, travel traditionally makes up c. 25% of its total annual emissions. To combat this Sage Gateshead has been encouraging active travel for staff by offering the Bike to Work Scheme, whilst encouraging audiences’ use of public transport by offering free travel on the metro with a Sage Gateshead concert ticket, with thanks to support from Nexus.

Sage Gateshead is no stranger to environmental awareness; it has been tracking and reporting its emissions to Julie’s Bicycle* every year since 2013. The venue is one of 30 chosen to be a part of Julie’s Bicycles ‘Spotlight’ programme which delves into energy usage reduction in the building.

Sage Gateshead recognises the critical importance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and is committed to continue to lower its emissions as rapidly as possible in order to meet this target.

Sage Gateshead is a part of the North East England Climate Coalition who aim to make the North East the greenest region, as well as taking part in the award-winning Gateshead District Energy Scheme with plans to make all council run buildings net-zero by 2030.

Wendy Smith, Director of Contemporary Music said “Sage Gateshead is responding to the climate crisis artistically by commissioning new music that reflects the world we live and motivates people to collaborate and make change. We also want to link artists to audiences in ways that have less impact on the planet than the usual models of international touring and travel. Our digital mini-festival Variations is four new songs and films on a theme of climate variations that could tip the Earth’s systems into an uninhabitable state. Every new song is a new beginning, that can contain seeds of change.”

Abigail Pogson, Managing Director said “As COP26 draws to a close, it is clearer than ever that everybody and every organisation will have their part to play in addressing the very greatest of threats.  In joining Music Declares Emergency and in producing festivals such as Variations, we pledge to do all we can to end the climate crisis.”

Variations, the digital mini-festival is available to view on BBC iPlayer. The tracks are also available at More about Music Declares Emergency here:


For media enquiries, images and interviews please contact
Susie Gray, 07834 073795
Jackie Thompson, 0191 443 4602

About Sage Gateshead

  • *Sage Gateshead is proud to partner with Julie’s Bicycle. The organisation reports its annual carbon emissions to Julie’s Bicycle each year, is part of their Spotlight programme looking at innovative ways to monitor and reduce energy usage in its building, and engages in an ongoing dialogue with Julie’s Bicycle about how the music centre can work in more environmentally responsible ways.
  • Sage Gateshead is an international music centre for the North East and wider North, and is home to the acclaimed Royal Northern Sinfonia. Through music, creative learning and artist development, the organisation shows what music can achieve for communities. It is for audiences, for artists, for the North and for the long term.
  • Since opening in 2004, Sage Gateshead has worked side by side with partners and the wider community to help address the complex blend of social and economic challenges the region faces.
  • Sage Gateshead continues to be a major employer and has brought investment and tourism into the region, generating c. £500 million contribution to the local economy, a sum six times greater than its combined capital cost.
  • Sage Gateshead has brought social, cultural and educational value to over 10 million people and millions more via digital and broadcast activity. The scale of its artistic, learning and artist development activity places Sage Gateshead amongst the UK’s largest cultural organisations, while reaching a substantially more socially and economically diverse audience.
  • Pre-pandemic Sage Gateshead attracted 2 million visitors; 5,000 people took part in weekly music classes; 17,854 school children experienced live orchestral music and we worked with a further 2,418 vulnerable young people; more than 2,000 adults a week took part in music making designed to tackle social isolation.
  • The North East region is one of the worst affected by Covid-19. The region will be one where the recovery is slow and hard. Arts and culture have a pivotal role to play in regional and nation-wide recovery.
  • Covid-19 presents a major financial challenge to Sage Gateshead, the iconic Foster + Partners designed NE landmark. 80% of its income has been affected, and in 2020/21 £10 million in revenue was lost. The organisation has taken swift action to overcome this crisis. 90% of the workforce was placed on furlough, significant cost savings have been sought and found, and it launched a fundraising campaign to raise £3 million to help secure the organisation during the next three years. Further challenges lie ahead; in 2021/22, Sage Gateshead estimates box office and trading income to be less than half of what would be expected in a normal year.
  • Sage Gateshead temporarily closed to the public on 17 March 2020, five days ahead of the announcement of the national lockdown. Sage Gateshead recommenced performances in October 2020 with a season of socially distanced concerts featuring Royal Northern Sinfonia and artists across genres, made available by live stream; audiences were able to be present in the hall for two weekends of those performances.
  • In 2020 Sage Gateshead received a grant of £2.8 million from the Culture Recovery Fund Round One to help it through the pandemic and associated financial crisis. In 2021 the charity received a loan of £3m from the Culture Recovery Fund Round Two to support recovery. It has thanked the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Arts Council England for this vital support.