UK City of Culture judges are heading to Sunderland

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The people who will decide if Sunderland will be named UK City of Culture 2021 are on their way to the city.

The city’s fate in the competition is in the hands of judges from the UK City of Culture panel who will visit Wearside next Thursday.

Sunderland will be the last shortlisted city visited by the judges, who include panel chair Phil Redmond CBE, creator of TV shows Grange Hill and Hollyoaks; Chair of Galway 2020 European City of Culture Dr Aideen McGinley OBE; design journalist and entrepreneur Marcus Fairs and economic regeneration tourism expert Suzanne Bond.

The judges will be shown some of the cultural developments in the city, such as The Fire Station, which would host events should we win the title, as well as established arts projects and venues, such as the Sunderland Empire and National Glass Centre.

Other shortlisted cities, Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on- Trent and Swansea, were visited ealier this month.

Rebecca Ball, project director of Sunderland’s 2021 bid, said planning for the judges’ visit had been going on for some time.

She said: “We’ve been working with partners across the city to show the judges how much the city wants to be City of Culture in 2021 since the shortlist was revealed in July.

“The judges will be in the city for about five hours, which isn’t that long to show them all that is great about Sunderland and to explain how the city and region would benefit from winning the title.

“We’ll be showing them our amazing coastline, our cultural assets such as National Glass Centre, the Empire, The Fire Station, Sunderland Musuem and Winter Gardens and Arts Centre Washington, and we’ll also be taking them to Hendon, Washington and the coalfield villages to show them some of the outstanding artistic and cultural programmes that are already being delivered in our communities.

“The judges will be meeting the city’s cultural leaders, politicians, business leaders and leaders from the University of Sunderland and Sunderland College – but we also believe it’s important they meet those who are delivering arts and culture, and those who are participating in cultural activities across the city.

“Winning the title would be huge for the city in terms of inward investment, job creation and profile and we want to show the judges the city as a whole is right behind the bid and wants to be City of Culture.”

BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown will be helping to host the judges’ visit. The Sunderland bid has been backed by local and regional businesses, councils, MPs, colleges, universities, transport companies, health authorities as well as organisations like Sunderland BID, SAFC, Gentoo, the Echo and local celebrities.

The winner will be announced in Hull, current holder of the title City of Culture, in December.