Sunderland’s bid to become a city of culture is set for a boost with the appointment of two senior art executives.
Keith Merrin has been hired as director of the National Glass Centre and Rebecca Ball will take up the post of bid director for Sunderland’s campaign to be named UK City of Culture 2021.
Keith is currently the Chief Executive of Museums and Archives Northumberland and Rebecca is director of The Cultural Spring.
The pair will work together on Sunderland’s cultural strategy that puts arts, culture and creative industries at the heart of the city’s future.
They will work with the University of Sunderland, which runs the National Glass Centre and is a partner in The Cultural Spring, along with Sunderland’s Music Arts and Culture Trust and the Customs House in South Shields.
Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts Design and Media at the university, said: “Sunderland is fortunate to have secured the services of two such experienced cultural leaders. Keith and Rebecca will play important roles in the continuing development of Sunderland as a cultural destination and creative powerhouse.
“This signals a step change in the development of Sunderland’s cultural assets.”
Keith said: “It’s an exciting time to be coming to Sunderland. National Glass Centre is going from strength to strength and the city itself is setting out ambitious plans to place arts and culture at the centre of its economic regeneration.”
Rebecca added: “There is so much energy and ambition in Sunderland. As well as existing assets such as the Empire Theatre and National Glass Centre, there’s the exciting development of a new cultural quarter around the old Fire Station.
“The City of Culture bid is going to be an opportunity for Sunderland to establish itself as a national centre for arts, heritage and culture.”
Coun Mel Speding, chairman of the city’s Cultural Partnership, added: “Planning has already begun and with our Sunderland Cultural Strategy, we already have a strong platform from which to progress.
“With Rebecca’s appointment we can now begin to focus, refine and deliver on those plans as we build up towards being the UK City of Culture 2021.
“In their new roles I am sure that both Rebecca and Keith will be showcasing our city and raising our cultural profile even higher on both national and international stages.”
The City of Culture bid is being supported by Sunderland City Council, the MAC Trust and the University of Sunderland.