Film and music hail Sunderland’s shipbuilding past

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A MOVING show which fuses film with folk music to celebrate Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage will be performed in the city for the first time.

The Unthanks are fine tuning their voices for a unique performance in Sunderland Minster tomorrow, which sees them sing their score along to a film by Richard Fenwick which traces the history of shipbuilding on the Wear, Tyne and Tees.

The songs are inspired by the region’s once thriving river industry, with some by songwriter Jez Lowe from Easington Colliery.

“The shipbuilding folk song book isn’t as big as other industries, but what there is is very focused on the North East,” explained Adrian McNally from The Unthanks.

Adrian says the band members, who hail from Gateshead and Northumberland, are looking forward to stepping on stage in Sunderland.

“We have played Split Festival in Sunderland before, but never our own gig.

“We’ve taken the show across the country – to places associated with shipbuilding such as Glasgow and London’s South Bank – and wanted to play Sunderland but we had never found a venue that was suitable.

“Then we heard about The Futureheads playing Sunderland Minster and realised it would be perfect for us.”

The pianist, producer and manager added: “Playing cathedrals and churches can be the best and hardest of gigs.

“There’s nothing in there for amplified performance, you have to bring everything in.

“It’s expensive as there’s a lot of things to overcome but if you get it right, it can be one of the most memorable gigs.”

The Sunderland gig will form part of a trilogy of performances which will take place on successive days on different locations near the Wear, Tyne and Tees.

Adrian said: “It’s been a powerful piece for a lot of people. The shipyards were such a lifeblood of our community. It’s difficult to find someone in this region who doesn’t have a connection to it.

“The show is political in places and it does pack a punch. Getting the tone right was difficult.

“It’s easy to be nostalgic in a rose tinted spectacles kind of way but you have to remember that these were tough times as well as great times.

“These communities were left with so little when the industry died.”

The Unthanks perform at Sunderland Minster tomorrow. Doors open at 9pm. Tickets are £15 from or 565 4066.

The show will also be performed at The Ballroom, Preston Park Museum, Teesside on Friday, and the Customs House, South Shields, on Saturday.

n To win a pair of tickets to The Unthanks at Sunderland Minster email your name and contact telephone number to by noon tomorrow. Mark the subject of your email as The Unthanks.