Dave Harper given posthumous Ambassador for Sunderland award as Pop Recs lives on in his memory

“He’s in the fabric of the place,” say the directors of Pop Recs as they collect a posthumous Ambassador for Sunderland award on behalf of Dave Harper.

Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 2:13 pm

The musician and co-founder of Pop Recs died earlier this year aged just 43, but he’s left behind a rich legacy with Pop Recs, a multi-purpose CIC incorporating a venue, coffee shop and training facility to enrich the city’s cultural landscape.

Dave, who rose to prominence as a drummer with Frankie & the Heartstrings, was known for being an outspoken force for change in the city, a firm believer in fostering talent and supporting the community.

In recognition of his efforts, which started way back in 2013 with the very first Pop Recs in Fawcett Street, Dave was given the Ambassador for Sunderland award at this year’s Echo Best of Wearside awards.

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Dave Harper has been awarded a posthumous ambassador for Sunderland Best of Wearside award

As the ceremony took place soon after his passing, Dave’s friends and family weren’t able to attend the ceremony in person. Instead, the award was handed over this week at the new Pop Recs in High Street West, which opened last month after breathing new life into once dilapidated buildings to bring something new to the city.

Dan Shannon, one of the three Pop Recs directors alongside Michael McKnight and Jo Gordon, said Dave is sorely missed but they are proud to be continuing his good work.

"In Dave’s absence, that strength of feeling for him is even more pronounced and it makes people really realise what we have, in terms of Pop Recs,” he said.

"It’s really bittersweet as Dave put all the graft in. Me, Jo and Michael (the Pop Recs directors) did the finishing touches, but Dave did the lion’s share. His ideas and drive are still here in everything.

Dan Shannon, one of the directors of Pop Recs Ltd receives the Sunderland Echo award in memory of Dave Harper.

"He’s in the fabric of the place, his picture is in every room and he’s in our thoughts every day when we open the building.”

Although the decision has been taken to postpone festive gigs at the venue, in light of the looming covid restrictions, a memorial gig was able to take place earlier this month with performances from the Heartstrings, The Futureheads, Roxy Girls, Martha, Lucas Renney and Field Music.

Dan said: "It was fantastic, there was so much love in the room, and a lot of sadness as well. People came down and really saw what we have here, it would be amazing to bottle that energy. We need to cherish this venue and support it as a city.”

Pop Recs opened at the far end of High Street West following a £1million investment and years of painstaking building and restoration work.

Dave with Pop Recs co-founder Michael McKnight

Building owners Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, who’ve received funding from National Lottery, gifted two of the buildings to Pop Recs to boost their community and cultural work.

The buildings are also a gateway cornerstone of Sunderland’s Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone, an ongoing revival scheme comprising grant funding from Sunderland City Council and Historic England.

The result of years of hard work is a coffee shop and training kitchen at 173 High Street West and a 250 capacity multi-purpose venue at neighbouring 172, with its own stage, accessible toilets, high-spec light and sound rig and a bar serving locally-brewed Vaux on draught, as well as bottles and cans.

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Photos by Paul Alexander Knox of Dave and his fellow musicians adorn the walls of Pop Recs
Inside the venue side of the new Pop Recs
Dave Harper outside the new Pop Recs, in High Street West in 2018 ahead of its transformation
Band mate Frankie Francis gave a video acceptance speech at the Best of Wearside awards which took place soon after Dave's death