ROKER’S illuminated festival got off to a stunning start.
Lanterns shaped as lighthouses, ships and jellyfish rose into the night sky along the seafront to mark the beginning of the three-day Roker by Night festival.
The event – themed Roker past, present and future – is aimed at helping to breathe new life into an area seen as one of Sunderland’s best assets.
Pupils from Redby, Dame Dorothy, Seaburn Dene, St Benet’s and Fulwell infants’ schools helped to launch the spectacular last night, with a lantern parade which started at the Yacht Club before making their way along Marine Walk, through the ravine, to Roker Park.
It culminated in a shadow puppet performance at the park’s bandstand.
Along the way, spectators were able to enjoy light installations which have temporarily been placed along the coast.
Queues formed outside Spottees Cave to see Roker Past, which featured projected archive images of the area’s history in the cave, which is normally not open to the public.
The Lowdon family, from Seaburn Dene, were among those attending the event.
“I think it’s a really good way of reinvigorating the seafront,” said mam-of-three Julie, 39.
“It’s amazing how many people have turned out.”
Brother and sister Sophie, 11, and Adam, eight, made their lanterns at a workshop at St Andrew’s Church Cubs.
“We spent three hours making our lanterns and we’ve really enjoyed the parade,” said Sophie.
“My favourite is the one shaped like Souter Lighthouse and the big sun.”
The event has been timed to coincide with a series of improvements taking place along Marine Walk and Roker Park, as part of the Sea Change public realm developments.
Jessica Bell, assistant manager for arts and creative development at Sunderland Council, said: “This is the first in a number of projects which will be taking place, and we hope it will encourage more people to come down and see what is changing.
“A lot of people have said the event has reminded them of the Illuminations.
“Heritage is important, but the generation that is taking place will explore other ways in which we can use the coast and park.”
The art installations will be lit from 6.30pm to 8.30pm tonight and tomorrow. Schools performances will take place at 6.45pm and 7.45pm tonight and tomorrow.