Inside the new Pop Recs culture hub as it prepares to bring more live music to Sunderland

Pop Recs culture hub is preparing to open its doors in its new home after breathing life into an historic city centre building.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 1:46 pm

From its first home in Fawcett Street to its move to Stockton Road, Pop Recs has built up a stellar reputation in the city bringing big names such as James Bay, The Charlatans, Franz Ferdinand and Badly Drawn Boy to play intimate gigs, whilst also providing a space for a host of arts and culture groups.

Now, four years after work began on saving the dilapidated 170-173 High Street West buildings, it’s preparing to host its first gig in its new home.

What was once the home of the very first Binns store in the 1840s, which spawned a household name chain, is taking shape as the new Pop Recs after painstaking restoration works by owners, Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust.

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The new Pop Recs in High Street West

The Grade II-listed building was little more than a shell when work began, but it now boasts a fully-equipped stage and bar, made from reclaimed materials from the former Dat Bar in Newcastle and Ashington High School, which will be christened when Vant, with support from Roxy Girls, take to the stage on June 25.

Tickets are on sale now for the gig which will mark the dawn of a new chapter for the multi-purpose culture hub.

Jo Gordon, training and development manager at Pop Recs, said: “We’re really looking forward to opening the doors and we very much want to be a part of the wider community. We’ll be targeting people who live around the area, so they feel that this is for the them, not just the established Pop Recs community.”

As you’d expect from Pop Recs, there’s talks ongoing with some big music names to perform at the venue, but its community work will be at the heart of what it does.

The buildings are a key restoration project in the Heritage Action Zone which is reviving historic buildings in the city centre

The Pop Recs building is at the centre of three buildings, which are all undergoing major restoration as part of the city’s Heritage Action Zone, which has also seen the transformation of Mackie’s Corner. The building to the left of Pop Recs will be home to the Sunshine Co-operative who will move from its base at the Eagle Buildings to sell a whole host of locally-sourced foods.

The building to the right, meanwhile, will be a cafe with its own training kitchen to help young people from a host of backgrounds to gain experience in the hospitality industry.

Pop Recs will be working with partners across the city, including Sunderland College, to help young people on a pathway to a career, whether it be in music through to cookery, and to help foster creative talents.

One of its in-house groups will be the accredited Crew School giving disadvantaged young people the chance to learn about sound, lighting and audio.

Jo Gordon at Pop Recs with the new bar which has been made with reclaimed materials from the former Dat Bar in Newcastle.

Community groups, such as Stitch and Bitch, which used to meet at the old Stockton Road shop that will close due to the move, will also be able to call the space home.

The ongoing Sunderland’s Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone has been made possible with grant funding through a Partnership Grant Scheme comprising funding from Sunderland City Council and Historic England.

The fund has helped pay for major restoration works to revive some of Sunderland city centre’s oldest buildings, including 170-175 High Street West, Mackie’s Corner and The Elephant Tearooms.

The buildings were in a poor state of repair when Pop Recs patron, singer James Bay, centre, visited in 2018. He's pictured here with Dave Harper and Michael McKnight from Pop Recs.

*Tickets for Vant at the new Pop Recs in High Street West on June 25, priced £10, are available from

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How the building looked in 2018 when Pop Recs patron James Bay visited
The new stage will host its first gig on June 25
Art work on the wall of the new Pop Recs