Sage Gateshead: Gateshead International Jazz Festival

​Sage Gateshead's environmental policy and Green Team embeds sustainable values across the organisation through travel schemes, procurement policies and audience experiences at such large scale events as Gateshead International Jazz Festival.

Sage Gateshead is a concert venue and centre for musical education and discovery located in Gateshead on the south bank of the River Tyne in the North East of England. The iconic building is a purpose-built space for music designed by Lord Foster. 

Their environmental policy and Green Team embed sustainable values across the organisation. For Sage, embedding sustainability into their work is integral to running a successful organisation.

Reducing their environmental impacts has inspired and rewarded staff, and has benefitted their public reputation through recognition of their efforts, including a two-star Creative Green rating from Julie's Bicycle and a Silver Award at the North East Tourism Awards.

Sage Gateshead works hard to implement audience focussed sustainable practices, such as free Metro travel for all ticket holders, and reusable plastic cups for festival events. They are currently working to increase the awareness of their environmental work through social media and advertising within the building.

“Sage Gateshead is committed to reducing our environmental impact year on year. This will be measured by an annual environmental audit, and through membership of a respected environmental stewardship scheme (Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green).”

– Excerpt from the Sage Gateshead environmental policy

The Dream Green Team

Sage Gateshead’s ‘Green Team’ was formed in June 2008 to implement environmental initiatives, and raise awareness of sustainability, both within the company and beyond. Green Team members have the full support of General Director Abigail Pogson and the Sage’s senior management team.

The Green Team includes representatives from all departments, allowing greater reach and impact on all areas of the organisation’s work. It encourages cross-departmental initiatives, like the collaboration between catering, technical, programming and front of house teams to reduce waste and energy usage for key events the Gateshead International Jazz Festival and SummerTyne Americana festival.

Key highlights and successes from the team’s achievements:

  • Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green certification two-star rating since 2012
  • Free Metro travel for all ticket holders on show days
  • Intelligent print management software Equitrac installed in photocopiers/printers, which has resulted in 45475 sheets of paper saved in 2014-15
  • Gas and electricity supply are both fully carbon offset
  • All water use monitored by Demeter Water Solutions to come up with more targeted water saving initiatives
  • 0% waste to landfill through the waste contractor – 98% of waste is recycled, the remaining 2% are processed at an energy-from-waste facility
  • Tungsten lamps have been replaced with LED lighting where possible, including LED strip lights in the main performance spaces Sage 1 and 2
  • Staff Bike to Work scheme to support bicycle purchases and discounted travel pass schemes
  • Local suppliers used for all print and uniforms. 

Sage are committed to reducing their environmental impact year on year. They aim to exceed statutory requirements in reducing negative environmental impact, and to be an example of best practice to other organisations.

Over the years, this commitment has not been without its challenges. Membership of the Green Team has at times decreased with staff turnover and a slight onset of ‘fatigue’ and a sense that everything has been done. This has been addressed by focusing efforts on specific events or aims such as the venue’s large-scale events. Aligning with specific projects has been a successful approach to increasing ambition in different departments, keeping things on track thanks to the clear timelines involved, and maintaining staff interest.  The one-off events have also proven a useful way to pilot new approaches and more ambitious green actions before rolling them out across the whole programme and operations of the venue. 

Gateshead International Jazz Festival

2016 saw the 12th Gateshead International Jazz Festival with Gateshead-based Team Cycles bicycle shop announced as the headline sponsor. This and many other strategic collaborations and initiatives characterise how sustainability is placed at the core of what Sage Gateshead do.

“To have a partner which is as committed to sustainable transport and cycling as we are at Sage Gateshead is really fantastic and this year’s raffle was an exciting bonus for festival goers too giving them an opportunity to win a great bike.”

– Abigail Pogson, General Director Sage Gateshead.

Engaging People and Artists

For the Gateshead International Jazz Festival, Sage installed a listening post in the concourse. Powered by a solar panel, the device gave people passing by the chance to sample tracks from artists participating in the festival. In this way, advertising for the festival programme was coupled with engaging the public in the venue’s green efforts. The listening post was designed and built by one of the venue’s engineers. 

Picture courtesy of Sage Gateshead, solar-powered listening station for the Gateshead International Jazz Festival in the Sage Gateshead public concourse, built by Ben Hines from the Sage Gateshead technical team.

For their large festivals, Gateshead International Jazz Festival and Summer Tyne Americana Festival, Sage sets out plans for reducing the impact of the events and shares expectations with touring parties during the contracting phase. This is reinforced during the run up to the festivals via communication with touring groups, the use of green riders and signage backstage. They are now working to introduce this approach across all programming. Engaging touring bands and productions is not without it’s difficulties, but it’s a challenge that Sage is positively working to overcome.

GIJF Goes Green

Green Rider sent to touring parties for Gateshead International Jazz Festival, 2015

The carbon footprint of UK artists touring is at least 85,000 tonnes of carbon per year; the impact of live performances spaces in the UK is at least 125,000 tonnes per year. Here at Sage Gateshead we would like you to join us in working to make Gateshead International Jazz Festival as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Alongside hosting ‘Take the Green Train’, a seminar on sustainability in music on Friday 10th April, we will be trying to reduce waste and environmental impact in practical on-the-ground ways. Here are a few of the ways you can help us: 

Be flexible with specific rider items – locally sourced / low packaging alternatives may be provided where appropriate

Be conservative when requesting rider items in order to reduce the amount of food / drink waste

Be happy to use your refillable GIJF water bottle in order to reduce the amount of plastic bottle waste 

Be proactive in using recycling bins for bottles / cans / paper / plastics

Be environmentally conscious when choosing how to travel to the venue 

Be excited about the initiative and use #GIJF to spread the word on social media

Thank you for your cooperation, it means a lot to us. If you have any questions or suggestions please email us. 

See you in April!

Sage Gateshead 


Collaborative Working

Sage Gateshead is a member of Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV), a collaboration between ten building-based cultural producers in the area, operating twenty-two venues between them. NGCV allows Sage to work with local organisations to share best practice on environmental sustainability. 

Sage are also a member of the European Jazz Network (EJN) and co-hosted their 2015 ‘Take the Green Train event’ with Julie’s Bicycle, which launched a project exploring the opportunities for green touring and environmental sustainability for EJN members across Europe.  

Next Steps

The Sage’s vision for a sustainable sector is one in which everyone is working towards a common goal, with strong motivation to build a sustainable future. 

“Our top tip for other organisations wanting to take action is to start a ‘Green Team’, however large or small you are. It’s a great way to give all staff an opportunity to get involved and to come up with ideas to improve the organisation’s sustainability, but it’s also important to have strong support from senior management to help staff realise their ideas.”

– Paul Elam, Event Coordinator, Sage Gateshead
Sustaining Creativity