New vision to make Sunderland a culture capital

Launch of Cultural partnerhsip at the national Glass Centre, Sunderland, on Friday dancers from Ballet Lorent

Launch of Cultural partnerhsip at the national Glass Centre, Sunderland, on Friday dancers from Ballet Lorent

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A STRATEGY with a 15-year plan to shape the cultural landscape of Sunderland has been launched.

The aim of the Sunderland Cultural Strategy is three-pronged: to celebrate Sunderland, nurture creativity and develop audiences and confident consumers.

Major institutions in the city, including the university, council, venues and funders, announced intentions to keep creativity in the city and develop future venues and events.

It was also announced that Sunderland can look forward to a major cultural project to commemorate the Battle of the Somme in 2016 and to hosting the International Glass Biennial Glasstress coming in 2016, which will attract artists from across the globe.

The strategy will support existing bids to transform the Old Fire Station and Holy Trinity Church into major arts and performance venues, while also encouraging future events and artists to flourish.

Coun Mel Speding, chairman of the Sunderland Cultural Partnership, said although culture could be seen as an extravagance in times of significant austerity, it can create future social and economic benefits.

He said: “As a city we were known as makers, and that is still reflected in our nickname of Mackem.

“Our aim is to make the city more attractive to investors and to make it a more enjoyable place to live.”

The Sunderland Cultural Partnership was formed in 2013 and led by the University of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council to form an ambitious new vision for arts and culture in the city.

The launch of its strategy is the result of a year of consultation with the cultural sector and audiences in the city.

Sarah Maxfield, area director north for Arts Council England, said: “It’s heartening, particularly in the current climate, to have this kind of confident assertion, a vision of what arts and culture can do for a city and a community.”

The launch also celebrated on-going success stories from partners involved in the strategy, such as Cultural Spring being awarded £2million from Arts Council England to boost cultural uptake in North Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Also, Arts Centre Washington being awarded £39,000 by the Arts Council to run Sunderland Stages, which is bringing a host of theatre to venues across the city.

Helen Green, director from Arts Centre Washington, said: “The regeneration of any city has culture at its heart and Sunderland is no different.”

Over the next few years, partners will be working with funders such as Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund for further investment.

Helen added: “We need to maximise our current assets and breathe new life into old sites, such as the Old Fire Station and Holy Trinity Church.

“We also need to nurture creativity, to keep talent in the city, to create a critical mass of artists, performers and makers in the city.”