‘Little gem of a Victorian school’ nominated for What’s On Where award

HERITAGE CLASS: Janette Hilton in the refurbished Donnison School.
HERITAGE CLASS: Janette Hilton in the refurbished Donnison School.
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A CULTURAL heritage project has been praised as a “little gem” on the day it was nominated for a What’s On Where award.

The Donnison Heritage Education and Media Centre, in Church Walk in Sunderland, has received a string of nominations for the Contribution to Culture category of the competition.

But project director Janette Hilton was keen to pass on the praise to others. She said: “It is great to be nominated for the 45 volunteers we rely heavily on. It is great for them to be acknowledged for a lot of patient volunteering.”

The project celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year and the original idea was to create a regional oral history scheme.

Janette, a historian, wanted to record people’s experiences and memories and “create another layer of heritage or history.” In the years that followed, the project acquired and moved into the Grade II listed Donnison School and £600,000 was spent to restore, refurbish and refit the premises.

Now, the Georgian building holds everything from talks to fairs, has inter-generational theatre, a Victorian school room, a Victorian walled garden, 2,500 oral history recordings and around one million digitised images.

It recorded 20,000 visitors in a year and Janette added: “We try to be really inventive with our heritage and stories, and people get a chance to access and see it. We don’t want to be a centre that is shut away.”

One of the many nominations for the centre said: “The Donnison School is a lovely little gem of a Victorian school site hidden in the East End.

“My children have been part of an inter-generational theatre project there that really recognised the value of culture and heritage in the area.”

The awards are held in association with our weekly entertainments guide, Wow 24/7, and aim to reward the elite in everything from restaurants to children’s venues, takeaways to parks and community areas, and hotels to the best shopping experience.

The deadline for entries is February 5 and the glittering finale will be on February 26 at the Best Western Roker Hotel. To nominate, fill in the form by clicking here.