Katy Wheeler’s Pick of the Year – food, music and movies

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium of Light, Sunday 24th June 2012.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium of Light, Sunday 24th June 2012.
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It’s been an eventful year in Sunderland’s entertainment calendar. Entertainments Editor Katy Wheeler brings you her highlights in the first of two special features.


Magic Mike

It wasn’t the acting or the plot which earns this film a listing in my top five. Ok, I admit it, it’s Channing Tatum’s hip-swivelling dance moves.

I and a group of girlfriends swooned our way through this tale of a male stripper who finds true love.

I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a film in which the audience giggled and whooped so much as they did in this flick.

The Hunger Games

As a big fan of the book, I was hoping the film version of this post-apocalyptic thriller would do it justice. It did.

Poor Panem and the lavish Capitol were brought to life perfectly while Jennifer Lawrence put in a punchy and powerful performance as heroine Katniss Everdeen.


Though a Box Office hit, Daniel Craig’s third Bond outing in Skyfall seems to divide opinion.

Thanks to director Sam Mendes, it’s all thoroughly entertaining stuff, no matter what your views.

The Dark Knight Rises

If success was measured in hype alone, The Dark Knight Rises would be entered into cinematic history.

Director Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the superhero icon is deliciously dark and Christian Bale may well be my favourite Batman thanks to his super-talented acting.

Great Expectations

Though there was much to dislike about this adaptation of the Dickens classic – there is no Orlick for starters – its stellar acting performances made it shine.

Ralph Fiennes is not an obvious choice for Abel Magwitch, but he makes the role his own and Helena Bonham Carter is simply glorious as Miss Havisham.


Field Music at The Cluny, Newcastle, February

Up until this point I had never heard one of Sunderland’s most prodigal musical sons live – I was missing out.

This gig was to promote the band’s fourth album Plumb, which went on to be nominated in this year’s Mercury Prize.

With their inimitable brand of prog pop, the four-piece, led by brothers Peter and David Brewis, swept the audience along on a wave of soaring vocals, angular sounds and super-tight harmonies.

An Evening with The Lake Poets, Sage Gateshead, April

The debut single launch for East Herrington musician Martin Longstaff was a beautiful triumph.

Just 18 months after playing his first ever gig at Independent, the 24-year-old sold out the Sage with the launch of City by the Sea.

The audience was treated to eye-wateringly wonderful anthems infused with a proud North East spirit by main man Martin and his band.

Martin has just released second single, Rain, a hauntingly beautiful lament to lost love.

Futureheads, Sunderland Minster, May

There can be few venues in the city with better acoustics than the Minster, and few bands better than The Futureheads. So when the two forces came together, it was always going to be a night to remember.

In celebration of a cappella album Rant, the Mackem four-piece raised the roof at this city landmark.

Highlights included a rousing rendition of The Old Dun Cow.

Coldplay, Stadium of Light, June

Before this concert, I wasn’t a fan of Coldplay – at that point I considered them the musical equivalent of beige.

But what a difference a gig makes.

This is a band born to perform at stadiums and not even a deluge of rain could dampen this electric concert, which saw the home of the Black Cats transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and top tunes.

Split Festival, Ashbrooke Sports Club, September

There was much hype about colourful Sex Pistol John Lydon headlining this year’s Split with band PiL – and he didn’t disappoint.

He was as potty-mouthed and entertaining as ever as he belted out tracks on the Saturday night of the festival.

The following day, This Ain’t Vegas stole the show for me with a fantastic turn in the more intimate Tunstall Hills Tent.


Casa Rio, Sunniside

In a city swamped by Italian and Indian restaurants, it was a refreshing change to indulge in some tapas.

This culinary breath of fresh air opened in the former Signatures restaurant in West Sunniside this year and is a Mediterranean haven of top-notch tapas.

Amore 2, Ashbrooke Sports Ground

A spin-off from the original Amore in Tavistock Place, this new restaurant features Amore’s fine food and style with cracking views over the sports ground.

The steak I enjoyed here was one of my favourite dishes all year.

Hardwicke Hall, Hesledon, County Durham

Picture-perfect Hardwicke Hall is a beautiful setting for good English grub.

The Grade II-listed building wouldn’t look out of place in a Jane Austen novel, but the menu is super affordable and tasty to boot.

Copt Hill, Houghton

The Copt Hill offers punters a Noah’s Ark of meal choices from zebra and camel to squirrel and frog’s legs.

If your taste buds are adventurous, this is the place for you. The menu is always out-standing and is complemented by super-friendly service.

Signatures, Sillksworth

I wasn’t sure how Signatures would fare moving from Sunniside to the suburbs – but it’s helped to give this restaurant the patronage it deserves.

Moving to a bigger site with parking facilities has seen business boom at this eaterie which never fails to satisfy my tummy.


Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls

Boys and Girls is a very good blues record, elevated to greatness by one thing; Brittany Howard’s incredible voice.

Raw, powerful and drenched with emotion, it bears comparison with greats such as Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, both of whom would have been proud to sing these soulful, earthy songs.

Richard Hawley, Standing At The Sky’s Edge

Murder, grief and the unstoppable passage of time are serious subjects, but so great are Richard Hawley’s songwriting skills, he is able to take them and create life-affirming, even uplifting music.

Nostalgic without ever coming close to sickly-sweet, Standing At The Sky’s Edge is contemplative, thought-provoking and brilliant.

Bob Dylan, Tempest

In a year when Bruce Springsteen proved that men of a certain age still had important things to say, Dylan really rammed the point home with Tempest. Bankers, politicians and anyone else unfortunate enough to get on his bad side got both barrels on this angry, cutting, vital album.

Django Django, Django Django

Synth squelches, tribal rhythms and mesmeric loops combine with pure, simple melodies on this debut with stunning results.

Impossible to pigeon-hole, I’ve been playing Django Django almost constantly since its February release, and I’m still hearing new things with every listen.

Field Music, Plumb

Field Music’s triumphant performance at Split, their hometown festival, was my live music highlight of the year, and Plumb undoubtedly one of my favourite records.

Multi-layered, complex and very easy on the ear, it’s a shame the Mercury nomination didn’t turn into a win. It would have been richly deserved.