CONFOUNDED. And they had every right to be after digesting this: “A city with a difference – a modern, bustling centre that is balanced with a relaxing green environment, stunning coastal scenery and a refreshing attitude to life.
“Here quality of life and quality of environment go hand in hand. The rapidly improving city centre has an enviable location, next to a beautiful coastline and surrounded by easily accessible countryside. Add to that a range of outstanding heritage, cultural and sporting attractions and you’ll find this city has everything you need for an ideal short break.
“There is always something going on here to suit all tastes.
“So, whether you’re after relaxation, invigoration or both, this distinctive mix of city, coast and countryside with its varying attractions will definitely be a breath of fresh air.”
So, where might this utopian-sounding idyll be located? Why, right on your very doorstep of course. It’s Sunderland – everything you need ... by the sea. How blessed are we ...
Only an overwhelming majority of Wearsiders I asked felt anything but.
Any wonder that after reading that PR speak, they were all momentarily lost for words, questioning themselves when I asked where did they think this blessed place was?
“It can’t be this city, can it?” was the reaction I was met with time and again when I popped into the Barnes Hotel.
“Is it Brisbane, Australia?” quipped David Peverley. Mind Jean McMahon, 42, a mother of three from Pennywell, cottoned on quick: “It’s Sunderland and it isn’t that good. It’s crap in Sunderland, everything you want in the town centre you have to go to Newcastle for, because they haven’t got it in ours.”
Taxi driver, Keith Grant, 54, from Newbottle, a dad of four, was incensed: “It’s describing Sunderland, but nothing like what it really is. Get rid of the pizza shops, charity shops and pubs and start bringing in shops.
“I am in the town centre every day and Sunderland is nothing like that description. It isn’t a city centre. You can’t call it a city centre. Walk up Holmeside and nine out of ten shops have shutters up. It looks disgraceful. Newcastle still has its old buildings, you see nothing boarded up there. It’s bustling every time you go. It’s crazy.”
Keith’s mother-in-law Renie Husband, 79, of Newbottle said: “Walking around Sunderland is miserable. The shops are all closed. There’s nothing there for me.”
Neither Joan Scott, 56, or her pal, Avril Kemp, 59, both of Tunstall, would call Sunderland to outsiders, but they mourn the state of the city. Avril said: “It sounds nicer than what it actually is. A bustling city centre, no, because it’s on the decline and I think it’s a crying shame to what it was years ago. If you haven’t got quality shops or different stores people won’t shop there.
“The money is going to Newcastle or down to York. We have got to start attracting quality shops. Even the railway station doesn’t stand out as a station, and look at Vaux – what will it become? Nothing will ever come of it.
“What they have done at South Shields is wonderful. There has been so much regeneration. We have got a beautiful beach and beautiful coastline but it’s just going to rack and ruin. Put Niall Quinn in, he’d sort it out.
“Mind we can’t even get the footballers to come here because their wives take one look at the shops and think ‘I’m not going to live there.’”
Joan agreed: “It’s the decline that started when they got rid of our beautiful buildings, the town hall and what did we get? That horrible civic centre.”
Students Laura Pye, 18, of Grindon and Emma Smith, 17, of High Barnes, rate our parks and coastline, but as Emma said: “Too many places are shut down and there’s no good shops left. There’s only The Bridges.”
That’s why they shop elsewhere. Laura said: “You have to go to the Metro Centre, Newcastle or Dalton Park.”
Celebrating her 70th birthday, youthful great gran Margaret Conroy of Doxford Park, wrote off the glowing description with: “I think it’s supposed to be Sunderland. But it isn’t true. It’s false because the town is going down hill. The council leaders mustn’t go into our town. They must have big cars and they can go somewhere else. They must go to Newcastle. Sunderland is pretty much turning into a dump. People don’t want to come here.”
To find out more, visit: www.visitsunderland.com