Architect George Clarke praises the life-changing potential of the Beacon of Light

George with Little Dribbler Harry Wright, six, and dad Jamie Wright
George with Little Dribbler Harry Wright, six, and dad Jamie Wright
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“It’s not just a box, it’s a box of dreams” - respected architect George Clarke has been praising the Beacon of Light’s shining potential to change lives.

The Sunderland-born TV presenter has been in the city tonight to speak to potential funders for the multi-purpose sports, learning, health and well-being facility being built in the shadow of the Stadium of Light.

How the Beacon of Light will look

How the Beacon of Light will look

Work has already begun on the £18m project, which will house a 12-court sports hall, that can also be used for events and gigs, classrooms, a school, a 7-a-side football pitch and six outdoor pitches.

Around £15m has already been raised by the Foundation of Light charity for the building, which will be the first of its kind in the country, with George and fellow foundation trustees urging businesses to help them reach the final goal.

“If anyone thinks this is just a sports facility, they’re wrong. There are other sports facilities in the region doing great things. But this isn’t just a building where people play sport, it cleverly uses sport to really change lives.

“It’s about creating a space where people can really engage.”

George Clarke with Look North's Jeff Brown and architects from FaulknerBrowns

George Clarke with Look North's Jeff Brown and architects from FaulknerBrowns

Earlier in the day George, a long-term supporter of the foundation and its work, also visited some of the charity’s many projects which include its Little Dribbler football sessions and Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food which has joined forces with the charity to promote healthy eating and cooking.

George, who rose to fame with shows The Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, said: “Not to name-drop but I’m friends with Jamie and I text him a picture of the work being done here and how inspirational it is. He replied and said it was brilliant. I’ve invited him to the opening of the Beacon, he said he’ll come and I’m going to hold him to it.”

The building is due to open in September 2018 when it will dramatically enhance the life-changing work of the foundation, the registered charity of SAFC, welcoming 6,000 people through its doors each week.

“I’ve been to other football foundations and this one is the envy of them all,” said George. “None of the others do what it does to that level, it’s something of which we can all be proud.”

George Clarke at the Stadium of Light

George Clarke at the Stadium of Light

The building has been designed by architects FaulknerBrowns and George says it’s one worthy of landmark status.

He said: “FaulknerBrowns have done a great job and have worked really hard with the limited funds to maximise the space. As an architect I believe it’s not just about what a building looks like, but what it does. And this one really will change lives.”

George says he’d like to see a landmark building repeated on the other side of the river on the former Vaux site and is in the process of liaising with developers Siglion about the site’s potential.

“The Beacon site has the trigger of the Stadium, the other side of the river will obviously never have anything as big as the football club. Sunderland is the football club and the football club is Sunderland.

“But what it needs is something cultural and inspirational, something that will draw people from other areas into Sunderland.”

•Anyone interested in supporting the Beacon of Light is asked to email lesley.spuhler@foundationoflight.co.uk