Sunderland City of Culture bid: Countdown begins to official launch

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A quirky performer will be lighting up Sunderland’s City of Culture bid.

Penella Bee is one in a colourful host of artists who will performing as part of tonight’s bid launch, which will see Keel Square in the city centre come alive with music, dance and street performance.

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

In preparation for tonight’s launch of Sunderland’s bid to be named the UK’s City of Culture 2021, which kicks off a weekend of events, Penella has been practising with a new form of performance technology.

The visual poi enables her to project an image through the air as she spins.

The routine will see the Sunderland-based choreographer perform alongside Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mcube and Claire Harvey in a hip hop dance fused with hula hoops, fire and glow technology.

She said: “I’m very excited to be part of the City of Culture event. It should be a really fun-filled family event to make us proud of Sunderland and all of the culture already based here.”

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

The launch will see a bumper line-up of entertainment including winners of Gentoo community competition Gen Factor, SK Dance; and vocalist Sophie Ann Robson.

Other entertainment includes a performance from University of Sunderland students; a newly commissioned piece from Theatre Space NE; local bands including Frankie and the Heartstrings; the cast of Shrek The Musical, which comes to the Empire Theatre in November, and a City of Culture Film that shows community groups and Wearsiders talking about what Sunderland means to them.

A consortium of city organisations will develop Sunderland’s bid for the title, including the Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, the organisation that has led on the planning of the launch event.

The Echo revealed in March that the city would be vying for the coveted label of UK City of Culture.

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

The Fire Girls dance group, left to right, Penella Bee, Tanya Oxbury, Lerato Mncube, and Claire Harvey.

If successful, it could stamp Sunderland firmly on the cultural map, ploughing millions into the economy and attracting investment in the arts.

Winning the title would result in a year of cultural events to draw in visitors and spark creativity in Wearside communities.

Even if the bid is not successful, the development of a bid itself has proved lucrative elsewhere. Durham’s hugely successful Lumiere Festival sprung from its failed bid, but ploughed £5.8m into its economy and attracted 175,000 visitors in 2013.

The UK City of Culture programme, which runs every four years, was developed by the Government to build on the success of Liverpool being European Capital of Culture in 2008 and the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.

Hull has won the title for 2017 and members of the Sunderland Cultural Partnership Leadership Group have already visited the East Yorkshire city to witness the growth in tourism and culture winning the status has sparked.

l The City of Culture bid launch takes place tonight in Keel Square from 5pm and throughout the weekend. Entertainment is free to attend.

Back the bid and have your say on future of the city

Visitors to the City of Culture launch will be able to share their views on plans for the former Vaux site.

Siglion, the development partnership carrying out the £100million-plus regeneration of various sites across the city, will be holding exhibitions in Keel Square from 5pm to 10pm tonight and from noon to 6pm tomorrow.

Development director Neil Hartley said: “We want people living locally and also the wider general public and businesses to come along.

“So far, the feedback has been very positive. The key thing coming out of the consultation is that the site needs to be linked to the city, with better access.”

A planning application is due to be submitted in November and work to start on site next year.