21 myth-busters about Sunderland’s City of Culture 2021 bid

Sunderland is bidding to be UK City of Culture 2021
Sunderland is bidding to be UK City of Culture 2021
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Sunderland isn’t cultural enough to win UK City of Culture 2021? The title isn’t worth winning?

There’s plenty of myths surrounding the city’s bid to win the coveted culture crown. Today we debunk the myths surrounding Sunderland’s entry to the award and address some of the biggest misconceptions.

The Air Show has shown the city's capability to welcome large numbers of visitors

The Air Show has shown the city's capability to welcome large numbers of visitors

1. UK City of Culture is an award for existing culture.

The title is not just an award for existing culture and judges aren’t just looking at what is already in place.

They will be looking at the cultural ambition of the towns and cities.

They want to see the potential for cultural activity in the future. Sunderland certainly fits that bill with work on a new £3.2m cultural hub at The Fire Station ongoing and construction of a new £8m mid-scale auditorium due to start later this year, alongside the restoration of Roker Pier and Lighthouse, Hylton Castle and the Canny Space

Sunderland's surrounding areas, such as Washington, are also a key part of the bid

Sunderland's surrounding areas, such as Washington, are also a key part of the bid

2. Sunderland can’t win the title

Sunderland was shortlisted for the coveted title in July.

We have already beaten off competition from six cities, and our remaining rivals are Paisley, Stoke, Coventry and Swansea. Feedback on the first round bid was very positive and we’re the only remaining bid from the North of England.

3. The title isn’t worth winning

Hull is the current UK City of Culture. PIC: PA

Hull is the current UK City of Culture. PIC: PA

The economic benefit to Hull, the current titleholder, in 2017 alone is estimated to be £60m.

In Hull, almost 90 new businesses and 550 new jobs have been created since 2013 and more than half of city centre businesses reported benefits in the first three months of 2017.

Furthermore, the title has attracted masses of positive publicity to Hull, which is already being seen in a different light.

Hotel occupancy is up 14 per cent and train journeys by 17 per cent.

Winning cities become hubs for major national and international cultural events, including the Turner Prize, and draw significant investment to deliver a year packed with a huge variety of different art and culture.

4. It’s a council bid and they shouldn’t be spending money on it

The bid was instigated by a partnership of Sunderland City Council, the University of Sunderland and the MAC Trust.

But following their lead, support and investment has come from a range of companies and organisations across Sunderland and the wider north east.

These include Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), The Bridges, Gentoo, Hays Travel, Siglion, Grand Central, Newcastle International Airport, BBC Newcastle, Nexus, Sun FM, Station Taxis, Go Northeast, Stagecoach, Leighton, Spark FM, Northstar Ventures and of course, the Sunderland Echo.

5. I can’t get involved in the Bid

The judges want to see that the city is supporting the bid and that they really want to be City of Culture 2021.

The bid is currently recruiting a team of 21 community champions to act as local advocates for the title.

You can keep in touch with the bid by liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter (@Sunderland2021) or writing to them at 2021 City of Culture bid team, National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL.

6. It’s not for me

Winning the title would mean a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city to experience a year of world class events and activities.

In the current City of Culture, a University of Hull study showed 90 per cent of Hull’s residents have visited a cultural event so far this year and seven out of ten residents agreed that the year is having a positive impact on the lives of local people.

7. It’s all about the city centre

This is a bid for the whole of Sunderland, not just for the city centre.

So Washington, Hetton and Houghton are as much a priority to the bid team as Roker, Fulwell, Hendon, Southwick, Shiney Row and everywhere else.

A team of 21 Community Champions from across Wearside are being recruited and they will be the voice of their estate, neighbourhood or area.

8. Is this the same as European Capital of Culture

No. There are two separate competitions, UK City of Culture and the European Capital of Culture.

The UK City of Culture is only open to towns and cities in the UK and is chosen every four years.

The European Capital of Culture competition is held annually and is run by the European Commission for cities throughout the continent.

9. The money would be spent on other priorities

It is not an ‘either or’ and doesn’t have an impact on the services, or lack of, that the city currently has.

If successful, much of the investment coming into the city would come from organisations such as Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund whose funding is restricted to cultural purposes.

Hull has so far succeeded in securing £15m of Government funding, which has come from its DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) budget.

It has been shown time and time again that money invested in the arts boosts the economy in terms of job creation and expenditure on hotel rooms, restaurants and production supplies.

10. Sounds like a lot of money to spend on one year

2021 will be an unforgettable year on Wearside should Sunderland win the City of Culture title.

But the legacy of the 2021 is equally as important and could lead to attracting further government funding, as well as private sector investment.

11. There’s no culture here

Sunderland has a vibrant music scene that is nationally recognised.

The Sunderland Empire attracts top West End shows and performers and an increasing number of other arts and culture venues are providing local performers the right sort of platforms.

12. There are too many empty shops for Sunderland to be City of Culture

While empty shops undeniably detract from the vibrancy of any town or city and do nothing to contribute local economies, they will not affect the chances of Sunderland winning the title.

All of the short-listed towns and cities have empty shops.

13. We can’t be a City of Culture if we’re cutting back on our libraries

While any cuts to library services are deeply regrettable, it’s not just a Sunderland or North East problem.

Cuts to council budgets are forcing similar closures across the country.

City of Culture is about attracting more investment into arts and culture in the city.

14. Are the 2021 bid and Sunderland Bid the same thing

No, the Sunderland BID is the Business Improvement District, set up in 2014 to revitalise the city centre through a 1.5 per cent levy on more than 400 businesses.

The 2021 bid aims to win the title UK City of Culture for Sunderland.

15. If we lose, the time and money have been wasted

Not so. The momentum from the arts and culture sector will not be lost. Exciting initiatives such as Tall Ships, The Fire Station and the new £8.2m auditorium will still go ahead, and the city will continue to bid for – and attract – Arts Council and HLF funding and grants.

Durham’s Lumiere spectacle is a product of the city’s failed bid to become the first City of Culture, and the Culture 10 initiative on Tyneside was a direct result of Newcastle/Gateshead’s unsuccessful bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2008.

16. It will ignore our local history and heritage

The city’s buildings, our history and heritage will play a huge role in the bid, and if we win the title, our heritage, local myths and legends and local people’s stories will play an important role in planning the programme for 2021.

17. Why 2021? Nothing will happen before then

It’s 2021 because the competition is held every four years.

18. What happens after 2021? Does it all just go away?

Learning from the experiences of Derry Londonderry, which won the first title in 2013, and Hull, the title can leave a long-term legacy.

What happens after December 31, 2021, will be central to the bid.

19. The city isn’t ready to host UK City of Culture

The city has already staged a number of large-scale events, such as Rihanna, Take That and Coldplay concerts at the Stadium of Light.

It has also held the Sunderland International Airshow, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, for more than two decades.

The success of those events is partly due to a number of partners across the city working together.

With the Metro system and links to roads such as A19 and A1, the transport infrastructure is already in place to cope with an influx of visitors. More hotels are also being built in the city and the judges take into account hotels within a specific driving time too.

So hotels on Tyneside and parts of County Durham can also be included in the bid.

20. If City of Culture is so great, why haven’t we tried to do this before?

The competition has not been going for long.

The first UK City of Culture was Derry/Londonderry who celebrated their year in 2013 after the inaugural competition was launched in 2009. Sunderland are bidding in the third round and the bid team feel the key foundations are in place and the time is right for a strong bid.

21. Aren’t we too close to Hull to win?

Hull is in East Yorkshire and 140 miles away.

If you’re going by train from Sunderland to Hull, the quickest time you can do the journey in is just over three hours.

It’s quicker to get from London to Hull by train, which can take you just over two and a half hours.