2021 City of Culture bid: So, what has Sunderland ever done for the region?
From giant ships to cheesy chips, lightbulbs to electric cars, Gears of War gaming to the great Jimmy Montgomery – Sunderland has been responsible for a cornucopia of truly glorious things.
And, if ambitious plans in the city come to fruition, it is about to deliver the goods once again.
Should Sunderland be named UK City of Culture 2021, the North East could benefit from an economic boost exceeding £100m.
The potential economic and cultural bonus from a successful bid is vast and while the spotlight would shine on Sunderland, the rest of the region could also bask in the glow.
Leighton Group Chairman, Sunderland 2021 supporter and passionate Sunderland ambassador, Paul Callaghan is calling on the rest of the North East to get behind the bid and reap the benefits in the long run.
“I was on the One North East board when NewcastleGateshead was the frontrunner for the European Capital of Culture for 2008 title and I clearly remember the disappointment when we lost out to Liverpool,” he said.
“We were so frustrated, but I’m loathe to refer to it as a “failed bid”, as the region gained so much from it, not just in physical assets and jobs, but in raised profile for the area, a new found passion and appreciation for the arts and, best of all, the whole region becoming vocal ambassadors for the bid.
“So much was learned during the course of that bid, but for me one of the most important things was the appreciation of how, even with our tongue-in-cheek parochial differences, we can mobilise as a united region to shout about the things that make us so culturally unique…which is something we must do again for Sunderland!”
When Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture 2008 it welcomed 9.7million extra visitors to the city during the year, a 35% increase.
This translated to £753.8 million direct visitor spend, not just for Liverpool, but for wider Merseyside and the North West as a whole.
The European Capital of Culture is undoubtedly a larger-scale operation, but with each awarding for the City of Culture title, the impact increases. And the benefit goes beyond the economic impact – between 2007 and 2008 the number of positive stories about Liverpool and the surrounding area in the national press grew by 71%.
Even in the local press, the number of positive stories focused on the city rose from 39% of the total in 2003 to 56% of the total in 2008.
When Londonderry/Derry carried the title of City of Culture 2013, it welcomed an estimated 600,000 extra visitors to the city and wider region as a direct result of the title.
Hotel occupancy rates in and around the city peaked at around 92% in the summer. Overnight trips to the Derry and Strabane district council area were said to have increased by 50% on 2012, putting £47m into its economy.
Shona McCarthy, the chief executive of the Culture Company 2013, who directed the Londonderry bid, said that over 75 different nationalities had been represented in the city over the course of the year.
“People coming to Sunderland to immerse themselves in the City of Culture won’t just head to the city and go home,” said Paul. “They will want to walk the Cheviots, visit Durham Cathedral, climb Roseberry Topping and take in the exhibitions the Baltic.
“If we are lucky enough to win and welcome just half the number of people that came to Liverpool in ’08, then they will have to stay somewhere, and our neighbours will be significant beneficiaries – this is a bid for Sunderland, but would also be an enormous boost to the North East.”
To provide an idea of the potential economic impact, look no further than Durham’s bi-annual extravaganza of illumination.
Lumiere came to Durham as a direct result of the city’s unsuccessful bid for 2013 UK City of Culture. But, in 2009, 2013 and 2015 the city welcomed more than half a million visitors to the festival of light, with 2013 alone providing a £6m boost to the economy.
Sunderland AFC hosted its first concert in 2009, when Take That graced the Wearside stage. It is estimated that each international artist, including Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Coldplay and Beyoncé, generates a £3.5m boost to the city economy, but have helped deliver an additional £65-70 million regionally.
It is also important to look beyond the potential financial benefits and focus on the cultural boost.
Simply as a result of bidding for City of Culture 2017, Dundee welcomed 30 new culture-related startup businesses between 2013 and 2014 and the city became the first in the UK designated a UNESCO City of Design. Visitors to Dundee cultural attractions rose significantly, as did city participation rates during the same period,
Rebecca Ball, director of Sunderland 2021, the partnership charged with leading Sunderland’s bid, said: “Success breeds success. We know that a successful City of Culture bid would help musicians and bands across the region take the next step in their careers, it would provide a boost to all North East museums, it would inspire artists, actors, poets and writers…but culture is not just about he arts. It would inspire communities to be creative, not only if we were successful, but even in helping us shape our bid. It would help so many in and around the city reconnect with our history and heritage and hopefully stimulate a generation of creative thinkers who will set the pace in the future.
“Like Hull now, we want to be mentioned alongside Vancouver, Reykjavik and Amsterdam in the Rough Guide of cities to visit. Sunderland can do this, but with the support of the wider North East, the job will be that little bit easier. Give us your backing and we’ll show you just what our city is capable of.”
To find out more about Sunderland’s City of Culture Bid, visit www.sunderland2021.com