£80million art plan for Sunderland church

Minister Peter Jordan of West Park Church on Stockton Road in the city, which is up for sale and may become a film exhibition space called "artarena" (sic).
Minister Peter Jordan of West Park Church on Stockton Road in the city, which is up for sale and may become a film exhibition space called "artarena" (sic).
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A CHURCH could become home to £80million of film as part of a ground-breaking new project.

Artarena would transform West Park United Reformed Church into a platform to house and exhibit the Roland Collection – the world’s largest compilation of films on art.

The building, in Stockton Road, Sunderland, would be home to 45 different screens where visitors could wander freely with the sound from each film being heard through a cordless headset giving them the chance to explore the films at their own pace.

The Roland Collection was put together by renowned director and art expert Anthony Roland who has teamed up with One Church, 100 Uses to bring the innovative art experience to Sunderland.

Anthony, 75, who lives in East Sussex, said: “I first found out about One Church, 100 Uses when I saw them in the end credits of a film and I thought I definitely have at least one use for you. “I contacted them and told them about the Roland Collection and they immediately whisked me up to look at churches in the North East.

“West Park had a very friendly feel to it, and the location next to the Metro station means people can travel from around the region to see it.”

The collection of 500 titles by 230 film-makers from 25 different countries, took Anthony 45 years to put together and contains 13 films that he directed.

Anthony said: “I used to be an art dealer and I realised that there were some exceptional films on art and I didn’t want to lose any of them.

“Some films are so outstanding and so beautifully made that it was worth making sure they never disappeared. If someone tried to make it now it would cost about £80million.”

Anthony hopes that giving his work a home in the North East, rather than London, will encourage growth in the creative industries in the region and make Sunderland a cultural destination.

West Park United Reformed Church has been up for sale for more than a year, as the congregation looked for a more suitable building.

Minister Peter Jordan said: “These are Victorian buildings that were designed for a much bigger congregation.

“It’s hard to maintain them. If there was someone who would take them on and give them a new lease of life that’s great.

“Our concern is the building and to see it used and developed in this project would be very constructive.

“Why should we not be a centre for the arts? It would be a great attraction for the city, a real draw to the North East.”

Donald Findley, of One Church, 100 Uses, said: “So often these things end up in the South East. We want this to be in Sunderland, something unique and relevant.

“Hopefully we would build links with Sunderland University and build other partnerships in the region.

“We are hoping to get funding for a mock-up in the church so that people could come along, have a look around and sign up to get involved.

“What we need is a local entrepreneur to invest who would run with it.”