Stephen Taylor: Sunderland has equipped and inspired me

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I HAD a few moments to spare recently in the city centre and decided to see what was on in the top floor of the Museum and Winter Gardens.

The visiting exhibition is called: “Writers of Influence: Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling.”

The remarkable “Chandos’” Shakespeare portrait is the only one painted while he was still alive and is borrowed from the National Portrait Gallery and is of international significance.

Other supporting photographic portraits surprisingly include Amy Winehouse and Kate Bush for their modern songwriting skills to move and “inspire us”.

Each portrait has a potted history of the individual and a quote from one of their pieces of work.

The author who I thought I knew a little about was HG Wells having read and seen War of the Worlds but the quote attributed to his could almost have been lifted from the newspaper of the day suggesting that we do not know the destructive powers of the events that mankind will endure in the future.

It prompted me to look up other writings of his. His Outline of History seems to be the equivalent of Bill Bryson’s A History of Nearly Everything – but 100 years before.

He has many insightful and profound quotes attributed to him like “Our true nationality is, mankind” but also rather trivial ones: “The uglier a man’s legs are, the better he plays golf – it’s almost a law.” I will read him more.

This wonderful collection is only touring to a very few places and again Sunderland has been chosen to be one of these few venues to see the masterpieces outside the capital. The exhibition finishes on March 27.

AS you may have read earlier in the Echo, I have agreed to take up a new position within the Church of England from mid September.

I am to be the Archdeacon of Maidstone with responsibilities for Communities and Partnerships in the diocese of Canterbury.

It will be a real wrench to move away from the North East in general and Sunderland in particular.

I moved up to Durham in 1980 – 31 years ago – and haven’t been away since. Latterly my role as Canon Provost of Sunderland based at the Minster has had a city wide engagement with partnerships and communities in different ways.

The new job in Canterbury comes after a review they had which saw partnership working as critical to future community building and a desire to integrate this thinking into their senior leadership team.

I will be the first postholder and it will be very exciting to be able to shape that agenda and in turn influence the church nationally.

So I will at the end of April bow out from being an Echo columnist.

Although I have accepted to offer I have yet to visit Maidstone where its base will be. The diocese of Canterbury seems from what people say to be the poorer part of Kent and they feel quite cut off from the rest of the country.

So another challenge, quite unexpected and for which Sunderland has equipped me and inspired me.