Sunderland artists feature in renaissance of Mackie's Corner

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From abstract pieces to local landmarks, Sunderland artists have made their mark on Mackie’s Corner.

Visitors to the city centre can’t failed to have noticed the renaissance of Victorian landmark Mackie’s Corner on the corner of Bridge Street and High Street West.

Built in the 1840s by local businessman Ralph Hutchinson, the Hutchinson’s Buildings were a popular shopping destination that housed some of Sunderland’s first fashion shops.

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Once a popular meeting place, the site became known as Mackie’s Corner after hat maker Robert Mackie, whose shop attracted passers-by as his workers could be seen through the windows making hats.

Local artists feature in the renaissance of Mackie's CornerLocal artists feature in the renaissance of Mackie's Corner
Local artists feature in the renaissance of Mackie's Corner

In later years, the buildings housed city institutions such as Chambers nightclub, however, the Grade II-listed building fell into disrepair during the late 20th century and from the early 2000s it had lain derelict, a ghost of its former self.

In 2017, it was taken over by Sunderland firm Kirtley Co who have completely transformed the site, whilst honouring its rich heritage.

The ground floor now houses a number of independent businesses, such as Fat Unicorn, Sweet Petite and Black Door Hairdressing, which has proved a great asset to the city centre.

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Now, attention has turned to the upper floors and basement, which house more than 30 units, ranging from 200sqft to 6000sqft spread across three areas: The Collective, The Dome, Chambers and The Basement.

Andy Martin's atmospheric photographs of local scenes in the men's toiletsAndy Martin's atmospheric photographs of local scenes in the men's toilets
Andy Martin's atmospheric photographs of local scenes in the men's toilets

The first tenants are preparing to move in, with more talks ongoing for remaining units and available to view.

And to make the most of the communal areas at this creative business hub, five local artists were commissioned to dress the areas.

They are: Faye Greenman, Kathryn Robertson, Victoria Campbell, Andy Martin and The Heritage Print Co.

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Kathryn, whose works portraying Sunderland buildings can be seen across the city, has created a mural in the communal kitchen area, which also features a mini gallery of her distinctive work.

Kathryn Robertson mural in the communal kitchenKathryn Robertson mural in the communal kitchen
Kathryn Robertson mural in the communal kitchen

She said: “The mural was inspired by the architecture of Sunderland and the hidden gems in the city centre, as well as giving nods to some of the Kirtley properties like Mackie’s Corner itself and Ashburne House.

"Included is Mackie’s Corner, The Elephant Tea Rooms, Wearmouth Bridge, Pann Lane, Simpson Street School. We also wanted to make sure areas like the Civic Centre and The Glass Centre were included.

“I’ve been drawing and admiring the buildings around this area for about 12 years now so it means a lot to have some artwork up in Mackie’s Corner. I’m really grateful to Alex and the family for including and championing local artists in this way.”

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Artist Faye, whose abstract pieces can be seen in the corridors and in the ladies’ toilets, said: “It is such a privilege to have my artwork hanging in Mackie’s Corner. Included in the several art prints that have been chosen to decorate the building are the Earthly Planes and Falling prints, which are two artworks which have had a lot impact across my social media channels.

Artist Victoria Campbell with her workArtist Victoria Campbell with her work
Artist Victoria Campbell with her work

"My artworks are based on love and belonging, so I’m confident that these artworks are exactly where they were destined to be. It’s amazing to be part of a showcase of local talent.”

Alex Kirtley, from Kirtley Co, said: “We chose these artists because they all have ties to Sunderland and are doing great things.”

As much locally-sourced materials have been used in the renovations as possible, including using the old Chambers dancefloor in the signage boards and using local sign writer Darren Lloyd to colour match and repair broken ceramic tiles in the hallway.

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Alex added: “It’s actually emotional looking back to 2017 and the progress we’ve made. People are talking about the building and that’s exactly what we wanted, to put it back into the community, our vision has worked. There’s nothing else like this building, each room has its own character.”

"Sunderland is undergoing huge changes, and not only is it retaining talent, it’s attracting talent. People can see and feel the change in the city.”

::Anyone interested in viewing units at Mackie’s Corner can email [email protected]

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