VISITORS have been flocking to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens in their droves – despite a regional slump.
Funding cuts have been blamed for visitor numbers being down by more than 26,000 in the first nine months of this financial year, compared to the same period last year, at venues including Newcastle’s Discovery Museum and Laing Gallery and Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
But, in Sunderland, numbers rose by 40,000 from April to November at its city centre museum and gallery.
Jo Cunningham says the boom is thanks in part to the “Grayson Perry effect.”
The Turner Prize-winning artist visited the museum in July to open an exhibition of his tapestries, two of which were inspired by his time spent filming a Channel 4 documentary in Sunderland. Jo Cunningham, museums manager, said: “We had a super August in particular, with more than 50,000 visits, compared to 35,000 in August the year before. We put it down to the Grayson Perry effect, but we always do well as a venue.
“Every venue has peaks and troughs, but we always have more than 300,000 visitors a year, and have done since we re-opened.”
She added: “As well as exhibitions, we have a programme of events and those one-off events draw big numbers to the venue. For Chinese New Year this year we had events which attracted more than 1,700 visitors in one day.”
Many museums in the region have had their opening hours cut as a result of budget reductions.