SOULFUL sounds of The Drifters brought some star-spangled glitz to Wearside Independence Day celebrations.
Ahead of their show at the Sunderland Empire last night, the four-piece performed a rousing rendition of the American national anthem at Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of the USA’s first president.
The band’s American members say it gave them a whole new insight into the history of their country.
“Today has been fantastic,” said Michael Williams. “I didn’t even know this place existed. We’ve grown up knowing about the star spangled banner and George Washington, but I didn’t realise this is where his ancestors came from.
“It’s been a great opportunity to learn more about our history and take that back home with me.”
The event, which celebrated Washington’s close links with its namesake across the pond, also featured a reading from the American Declaration of Independence by a member of Sunderland Youth Parliament and performances from Broadway Junior School, John F Kennedy Primary School and George Washington Primary School.
Special guest Donna Scarboro, Associate Provost for International Programs at George Washington University, raised the American flag before the singing of the American national anthem. She has been involved with the historic Friendship Agreement between Sunderland and Washington DC since it was signed in 2006.
The July 4th celebration is part of an ongoing programme of activities taking place in both cities under the umbrella of the Friendship Agreement.
Highlights this year include pupils from Redhouse Academy having the opportunity to visit Washington DC in September, as well as a Sunderland software company developing a free digital resource, with support from Library Services, on Sunderland’s Black History.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Paul Watson said: “The city is very proud of our Friendship Agreement with Washington DC, which takes our unique historical connection and sets out to create opportunities which will bring very real benefits for both of our communities.
“The Independence Day celebrations in Washington help us celebrate some of the very positive things that we have been doing with our friends and colleagues in America. I look forward to seeing these opportunities develop further in the months and years ahead.”
National Trust General Manager Nick Dolan said: “This annual event showcases historic Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, first president of the United States of America.
“The National Trust charity is again proud to host the event and work with City of Sunderland, the Friends of Washington Old Hall and our other partners in celebrating freedom and friendship.”