“Brighten our bridges”.
That is the call today from a Sunderland actor who wants to see the city’s crossings more illuminated in a move which he thinks will “stamp” Wearside’s identity back on the map.
Passionate Mackem Bill Meeks has begun a petition to light up the bridges over the River Wear on the change.org website.
Mr Meeks, of Southwick, argues that with Sunderland’s 2021 UK City of Culture bid progressing and the Tall Ships race just months away from taking place in the city, more needs to be done to illuminate the waterway’s bridges.
He says he has approached chiefs at Sunderland City Council about his idea and is eagerly awaiting to hear back from bosses.
Sunderland City Council says that Wearmouth Bridge is lit up, although it does not have colour change capability at present.
“I think this is something that is very important for Sunderland,” said the 52-year-old.
“I saw a lovely photograph recently of Sunderland from the sea, but you couldn’t really see the bridges.
“These bridges are the ladies of the city and we need to look after them, they are icons of Wearside that are instantly recognisable and we should be illuminating them better.
“The Keel Square area which has new lighting looks brilliant, it’s really improved the place.
“We are in the 21st century, having to think about lighting up our heritage and displaying them in their most noble and majestic form.
“I think we are overlooking our mighty bridges that have stood the test of time, do they not deserve recognition?”
Mr Meeks argues the city’s appearance would be greatly improved if the Wearmouth, Monkwearmouth Station and Queen Alexandra bridges and the areas around them were given new lighting.
“It’s not long until we’re in 2018 and the Tall Ships will not be far away so we need to brighten our bridges before then because time is ticking on.
“We really want to stamp Sunderland’s identity back on the map, because we can’t do it in the dark. “You look at the area underneath the Wearmouth Bridge right now and it’s dark and gloomy, no-one wants to go there.
“Places like Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool have done a much better job of lighting up places near their bridges.
“I’m really passionate about this because I think it would look wonderful. Money is tight at the moment, but low-cost, high wattage lighting could be used and it would make such a difference.”
We asked Wearsiders what they thought of the idea.
George Foggon, 69, of Silksworth, said: “I think lighting up the bridge is a good idea, mainly it will be safer with a feeling of security in the darker areas but it will also be great to support the City of Culture.”
Karen Bosher, 48, of Fulwell, said: “Penshaw Monument is a similar landmark and that is always lit up so the bridges should be the same,
“Whenever you go away you know you’re home when you see Penshaw, so the bridges should create the same feeling.”
Portfolio Holder for city services at Sunderland City Council Coun Michael Mordey said: “We welcome Mr Meeks’s proposals, and will look at them with interest.
“The New Wear Crossing will incorporate colour change lighting and will be ready for the Tall Ships, while Wearmouth Bridge is already floodlit but does not currently have colour change capability.
“Special, coloured lighting displays are already used at Penshaw Monument and in Keel Square on occasion, and we might look at ways at how this provision might be expanded to other parts of city.
“It is important to remember that Tall Ships event will be in mid-summer, so the benefits of additional feature lighting would be minimal during the event.”