LINDA COLLING: Canny auld Sunderland

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HE summed up Sunderland to a T with his tableau tapestries, depicting what makes us tick. Tattoos, false boobs, fake tan, big hair, footie fanaticism and our tacky, tribal displays on a night on the town.

Grayson Perry, the Turner Prize-winning artist did what he came to do – a documentary about our heritage and how the class journey we take shaped the way we define ourselves through what we wear, buy and how we live.

He didn’t do a hatchet job as I thought he might. We may not like the image of Sunderland that was shown on Channel 4, but it was true and very representative of all that this eccentic artist saw on his visit here last summer.

His “safari” as he called it, has been criticised as too stereotypical and not broad enough. Come off it. It was Sunderland and Perry never mocked nor knocked it. I think he glorified the people.

He had an empathy with them and how moving his foray into Heppy’s social club with singer Sean belting out the ballads his mother once sang, while her friend hung on to his hand so movingly,

Perry likened it to a religious altar piece.

Far from taking the water, Perry made this point of that moment: “Do you cry a more vintage kind of tears at Glyndebourne?”

And he observed: “The people here seem passionately nostalgic about their culture.”

Of course we are. The shipbuilding and the mines are gone, but our heritage fills us with a sense of pride in our city as poor and pathetic as it now is.

What Perry showed was to quote Robbie Burns: “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.” And he did just that.

After partying with the girls at Deborah’s do, he spoke a heartfelt observation that he loved them just the way they were and just had to put them in his art work.

When they saw his finished tapestry – as vibrant as they are – one spoke for all with: “It’s fab. It’s us. Absolutely fantastic.” and another, “It has made us immortal you know.” And Heppy’s singer: “I am so honoured to be portrayed like that. It’s spellbinding.”

These terrific tapestries represented the working-class city that we are. And he did it brilliantly. If you don’t like the image then we need to do something about it.

What kind of city do we want? What are our aspirations for the future? What changes would we love to see here? What difference could the council make, as has happened in Newcastle? Where are we going?

Perry’s next stop is Tunbridge Wells. Well, we’ll never be a toffee-nosed Tunbridge Wells, thank goodness.

And you know what? What shone through this show was the generosity of Sunderland people – big hearts and matching personalities.

That’s what makes canny auld Sunlun all that it is and what we love about it.

Hint to the future

WHOEVER would have thought it and what a statement, Camilla riding next to the Queen in the State Landau in the absence of Prince Phillip?

Definitely unthinkable 10 years ago when Camilla was reviled as Prince Charles’ mistress.

The message that went out loud and clear from the palace this week, with all the hangers-on all gone from the balcony scene, was this is the face of the monarchy and dynastic succession.

The Queen, her son, his wife, her grandson, his wife and bachelor boy, Prince Harry.

Showing the new pared-down Royal Family is a carefully conceived PR plan, but the most amazing triumph is having someone, once persona non grata, now accepted as our future queen.

Standing room only for the Royals

“YOU can say what you like about them, but they’re good at standing,” quipped number one son on the marathon, four, rain-sodden hours our Queen at 86 and Prince Phillip, 91, this Sunday, stood amidships on the Spirit of Chartwell.

They were so exposed to the elements with just a flimsy canopy over them. Two years in the making this tableau may have been, but given the weather and that her Majesty was never going to sit any more than Prince Phillip, it should have been curtailed.

In fact, it was a marathon pageant that was torpedoed by the nit wit presenters Matt Baker and Sophie Raworth. Diabolical without a Dimbelby. Truly dire drivel.

Back to why did the Queen stand for so long? For the same reason I bet as she hasn’t stepped down. Our Queen sees it as her duty to stoically serve this country until the day she dies.

Not such a capital idea

WHY did all the celebrations have to be in London with loyal subjects throughout the kingdom left to manufacture their own right royal parties?

Of course the Queen can’t be everywhere, but certain elements of this four-day Jubilee could have occurred outside of the capital.

The Queen’s thanksgiving service had to be in St Paul’s, but surely the two-hour pop concert could have been taken elsewhere and a pageant staged somewhere different too. Instead it was all concentrated in London.

As for that Jubilee concert, I bet Prince Phillip was counting his blessings that he’d missed it.

Not so wor Cheryl, who somehow managed to get herself so close to the Queen she looked like the cat that had got the cream.

With the Queen sandwiched between Camilla and Cheryl, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

One is enough for one.

Best of British

AS, appropriately, Run for Home blasted out in deafening beat, all who had ran like the clappers back to their old stamping ground, made this a celebration not to be forgotten.

The spirit here at a Jubilee street party, where no streets exist on the demolished Homelands Estate, at Houghton, was fabulous, steeped in what is priceless – community.

That’s what was so sadly lost when the pre and post-war houses were demolished in 2007.

Known as a sink estate, as gritty author Sheila Quigley, who lived there for 30 years told me: “It wasn’t the original people that made it a sink estate. It was the council moving druggies and dealers in.

“We didn’t want them. Then it was torn down. Nobody wanted it torn down. And they threw a lot of money away because all those houses needed was renovating.

“People were really happy here. You won’t get it anywhere what we had. The community spirit and people today would really love to come back. If they built it again they would all want a house here because I certainly do.”

That went for everybody I talked to. It wasn’t just the Jubilee they came to celebrate, but all that they treasured down the years, friends and neighbours as good as family.

It’s all too easy to knock an estate down, but how great the loss, not just the homes so many were born and bred in, but the close ties with folk who cared and looked out for one another.

That’s the spirit that’s missing on so many new developments.

Plenty of old neighbours keep in touch, but the loss was keen for those who had lived next door to one another, some for decades, when they were displaced.

So, commemorating all that was prized here, all that was good and positive was great.

Sandra Heron, 37, who grew up there said: “It’s been a great day and just reminded us of when we were younger.”

That triggered memories of watching the first bulldozers move in. They all feel it acutely what they’ve lost and as I walked over the plots and pathways where grass now grows, it was ironic to see one house standing in Coronation Crescent, beautifully extended and tied to a boarded-up one next door.

What a crying shame.

The Axe – The Colling Hitlist

LET the axe fall on this ridiculous plan to monitor swearing at football matches.

Men have always let off steam there and to think snoopers or “secret shoppers” would stop them is crass and stands no chance of stamping out foul language.

Bosses of the Northern League, which has 46 clubs in the region, want to name and shame the worst offenders.

The idea has the backing of the Football Association, but not, surprisingly, by many clubs in the league.

To fund any such plan to the tune of £200,000 sponsorship the league has agreed with company Ebac, would be squandering good money and provoke a string of obscenities.