Split spin-off a sign of Sunderland’s thriving music scene

Hyde and Beast and (below) B>E>A>K perform at Split.
Hyde and Beast and (below) B>E>A>K perform at Split.
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MUSIC in the city has never sounded so good.

Not only was it announced last week that the Stadium of Light is gearing up for another summer of gigs, grass-roots music is also flourishing.

SPLIT 2011: B>E>A>K

SPLIT 2011: B>E>A>K

Since launching as a low-profile festival three years ago, Split has emerged as a blossoming permanent fixture, capable of attracting headliners such as The Charlatans and Maximo Park while also throwing a lifeline of support to up-and-coming acts.

Now it is branching out from its Ashbrooke Sports Ground festival fixture to create year-round music and culinary entertainment.

Its first spin-off gig will take place at North Shore, in St Peter’s, on December 10.

As well as being the first gig The Futureheads have played in Sunderland in more than a year, it will feature performances from emerging act Hyde & Beast and colourful instrumental troupe B>E>A>K, topped of with a DJ set from Frankie & the Heartstrings.

It will lead to a planned series of quarterly gigs as well as a hoped-for Food Festival.

Futurehead Ross Millard, also the Split brand’s music programmer, said: “We played at North Shore earlier in the year with The Stranglers and we said then what a great venue it is.

“It’s underused, though, and we need to make it part of people’s nightlife options.

“The good thing about North Shore is that it’s in between smaller venues such as Independent in Sunderland and larger venues like the O2 Academy.”

This year’s Split Festival, headlined by The Charlatans in September, saw more than 30 acts perform and featured a food tent that celebrated North East-sourced foods.

“Sunderland is a bigger city culturally than people give it credit for,” said Ross.

“But people need to be proactive and keep putting gigs on so that it becomes the norm.

“These Split gigs are an extension of the festival with people that fit in with the identity of the festival.

“It’s about having something in the calendar which people can look forward to.”

Split bosses are due to start making announcements about next year’s event in the New Year.

Ross said: “We don’t want Split Festival to be an enormous sprawling mass of people.

“We want it to be more of a boutique thing. We only book people if we like them. We don’t just book a big name to pull the crowds in.

“We are not at a level where we have endless pots of money to throw at an act like Foo Fighters.

“The thing for us is that we want the bands to want to play our festival. There has to be an altruistic element to it.

“We think about the audience and who Sunderland wants to see and every year the festival happens, we get a better understanding of that.”

Split is not the only event to have seen the city’s cultural scene soar to new heights.

The Stadium of Light gigs which have taken place over the last three years have ploughed millions into the city’s economy, while attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Wearside.

Ross said: “The Stadium of Light have done an incredible job getting that venue on the route of tours.

“As far as stadiums go, 90 per cent have similar specifications, but Sunderland has got it licked in attracting bands.

“Sunderland is on the map now. The stadium is great for the big-name acts and we need to make sure we keep attracting smaller acts.”

“The Red Hot Chili Peppers is so exclusive, you can hardly believe it.

“It’s like when Radio 1 came to Herrington Country Park – you had people like Gwen Stefani playing in your home city. For decades before that, people could only imagine their favourite bands would play up here.”

Twitter: @Sunechokaty