COUNCILLORS today welcomed an ambitious project aiming to bring arts to deprived Wearsiders.
Business leaders – with council backing – have put in a £3million bid for a slice of Arts Council cash to bring a package of events and activities to Sunderland’s Castle, Southwick and Redhill wards.
Dubbed The Cultural Spring, it is hoped the three-year programme of projects and performances could leave a decade-long legacy for the city.
Southwick – which has streets named after world-famous authors, including Dickens and Shakespeare – is the poorest ward in Sunderland and the fifth least well-off in Tyne and Wear.
Two wards in neighbouring South Tyneside – Biddick Hall and Whiteleas – are also involved.
Southwick councillor Norma Wright said the project could be a massive boost to her ward.
She said: “We think it’s really exciting. We just hope that it comes to fruition.
“It will be fabulous for bringing art to the people of Southwick and the rest of the city.”
The former mayor, who was born and raised in Southwick, said the funding bid had “absolute support” from councillors.
“We think it is an excellent idea and it really would be something positive for the people of Southwick.
“Anything that brings art to the people is great.
“Art means different things to different people, but for so many people, because of the costs, it can be prohibitive.”
Partners Sunderland Music, Arts and Cultural Trust, the Customs House Trust in South Shields and the University of Sunderland are aiming to bring music, arts and culture to an estimated 30,000 in north Sunderland and 20,000 in South Tyneside.
If successful, the university will research the impact of the cash injection and has agreed to offer training and accreditation opportunities for grassroots organisers.
Graeme Thompson, the university’s dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media. said: “If we are successful in securing the funding for this idea, it will be transformational for Sunderland and South Tyneside.
“It will result in some of the biggest names in art, music, dance and drama working alongside the residents of these five estates on a whole range of projects.
“We’ve received lots of interest from organisations such as the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Live Theatre, WildWorks and New Writing North and there’s significant support from residents representing the five estates.”
A host of proud Mackems and organisations have also given the Cultural Spring their backing, including rockers the Futureheads, city council leader Paul Watson and Canon Shelia Bamber, of Sunderland Minster.