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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 December, 2004, 14:51 GMT
Visitors grab chance to view Sage
Hall One of The Sage Gateshead
Hall One has seating for about 1,700 people
Thousands of people have poured through the doors of one of the country's most stunning performance venues.

A fanfare sounded as The Sage Gateshead opened its doors on Friday evening and its first visitors had the chance to see inside the distinctive building.

The 70m music centre dominates the banks of the Tyne with its spectacular curved roof of glass and steel.

About 1,000 people passed through the doors in the first hour and 15,000 are expected by Sunday evening.

Organisers opted for the open weekend, for which the tickets are free, instead of a black tie gala, so more people could take part.

The weekend has been divided into three-hour slots including workshops and 40 minutes of music.

On Saturday, a Sage spokeswoman said the box office had reported a "phenomenal" response with tickets for many events selling out.

SAGE GATESHEAD OPENS
Your reaction to Tyneside's new 70m performance venue

Designed by Norman Foster, the project, which includes two halls, a music education centre, restaurant and bars, is seen as crucial to the area's regeneration.

Architect Lord Foster said: "I have always believed that the arts are an essential part of the life of a city. The arts can inspire and educate, they can also be a force for the revitalisation of a city district.

"When we designed The Sage Gateshead, it was foremost in our minds that the project should not only contribute to the urban regeneration of Gateshead and symbolise the cultural emergence of Tyneside, but also provide an urban living room in which the local community can enjoy a wide range of music."

The Sage has two halls, one with 1,700 seats and another with seating for up to 400. It will be the permanent home for the Northern Sinfonia and will be the venue for the whole range of musical styles.

Inside The Sage Gateshead
A glass-fronted concourse runs along the front and sides
Sage general director Anthony Sargent said: "With the opening of The Sage Gateshead we complete one epic journey and start another."

He said he believed it was an inspirational building and one with "extraordinarily friendly informality".

"We will know if it is a success by the fact that... it is taken to people's hearts and it becomes a completely ordinary everyday experience just to come here as naturally as you would go down the pub," Mr Sargent added.

Gateshead Council leader Mick Henry said the opening marked the end of an eight-year project to transform a plot of derelict land into a leading music centre.

He said: "The Sage Gateshead completes our vision to create a new artistic and cultural quarter called Gateshead Quays.

"The best thing for me is that you don't have to go to Vienna or Amsterdam but you can do it right here in Gateshead."

While many Gateshead residents have welcomed the opening of the Sage, others have said investment ought to be spent on regenerating the town's high street.





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BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Find out what the new arts centre will offer



SEE ALSO:
Centre emerges on banks of Tyne
17 Dec 04 |  Tyne/Wear
In pictures: The Sage Gateshead
17 Dec 04 |  In Pictures


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