Empty Sunderland shops to become arts hubs under innovative project aiming to help drive Wearside forward

Five empty shops across the city of Sunderland are to set to become arts hubs as part of an innovative community aiming to help drive Wearside forward.

Monday, 18th April 2022, 4:55 am

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The Cultural Spring, which aims to increase involvement with arts and culture in Sunderland and South Tyneside, is on the lookout for suitable premises to use for “about a month” as part of a year-log project.

The idea is to increase the number of Wearsiders taking part in community arts activities.

One shop will be put to use in each of Sunderland’s five council areas: Washington, Coalfields, North, East and West Sunderland, from where programmes of activity will be on offer.

Five empty shops across Sunderland are to be used by the Cultural Spring for "about a month".

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An exact date has not yet been given for when the shop scheme will start. However, the idea is to get into communities and produce workshops, art sessions, talks, exhibitions and other activity in local neighbourhoods.

For a while the shops will become community hubs, which could also be used as platforms for arts, culture and heritage organisations and existing groups already based there.

The Cultural Spring has appointed project co-ordinator Emma Biggins to deliver the project, which will last about a year. Emma is a University of Sunderland graduate as well as being an artist herself.

She said: “We’ll also use the shops to find out what sort of arts activities local neighbourhoods would like to see more of, as well as spreading the word about The Cultural Spring’s wider programme.

The Cultural Spring has appointed Emma Biggins as project co-ordinator.

“This will also be an opportunity for existing groups to promote themselves and hopefully increase their own members. We’re confident the takeover idea will work as we successfully delivered a similar project, a pop-up shop in the Bridges, in 2017.

“We’re keen to get started as soon as we can and we’re already talking to local communities to get an understanding of what activity they’d like to see in their ‘empty shop,’ as well as looking at possible venues.

“We’re also planning to recruit some volunteers to help us staff the shops.”

The Cultural Spring is funded by Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places project and its five partners including the University of Sunderland and Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust.

Suggestions for suitable venues can be emailed to [email protected]

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