Eeeeeee! It's already one of Sunderland's most popular artworks

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Eeeeeee! it's great

Leeds resident and Sunderland expat Jennifer Bainbridge feels like she's home when she sees the sign. Picture by Mick Bainbridge.Leeds resident and Sunderland expat Jennifer Bainbridge feels like she's home when she sees the sign. Picture by Mick Bainbridge.
Leeds resident and Sunderland expat Jennifer Bainbridge feels like she's home when she sees the sign. Picture by Mick Bainbridge. | 3rd party

It's official. A new piece of public art in has become an "instant classic" in Sunderland.

In red neon light, the sign simply says "Eeeeeee!" - a well known North East expression which has no literal meaning, but in practice can mean much in a variety of ways. The piece's official name is The Mackem Shibboleth.

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Sunderland has a patchy record for public art. Ray Lonsdale's Gan Canny tribute to Vaux is a hit, as are the murals of Frank Styles. However, the River Wear's floating sculpture Ambit was an "acquired taste" which no one ever quite acquired.

But Eeeeeee! - which looks set to become the officially correct spelling of the word - has gone down a storm.

It was only installed on the exterior of the Hope Street Xchange on Hind Street (Hope Street is behind it) in August 2023. But locals and visitors have already taken the beautifully simple creation to their hearts.

Describing the concept, the local artist behind the work, Erin Dickson, says: "Hearing the northern dialect when stepping off a train or a plane offers a sense of relief for locals and non-locals alike.

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"It’s a subtle welcome home to a place where they will be called 'love' or 'pet' by complete strangers. But the region-defining exclamation we take the most pleasure in hearing is the prolonged gasp of 'Eeeeeee!'

The word has an array of meanings, although its etymological origins are uncertain. Whatever, the sign is topper.The word has an array of meanings, although its etymological origins are uncertain. Whatever, the sign is topper.
The word has an array of meanings, although its etymological origins are uncertain. Whatever, the sign is topper. | NW

"Described in the Oxford English Dictionary since 1999 as the ‘northern English form of Oh!’, 'Eeeeeee!' is the most adaptable utterance in the Mackem language."

The sign is a few metres away from the Premier Inn and guests are regularly having their photographs taken next to it, particularly Wearside expats

Jennifer Bainbridge is a Mackem who has been a nurse in Leeds for many years and stays at the hotel when she returns home.

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She said: "My mates at work are always taking the Mick when I say 'Eeeeeee!' If we get a patient from the North East I automatically say it.

"It resonated straightaway when I saw it and I had to take a picture."

Former St Aidan's pupil Paul Redman now lives in Zurich, but still makes regular trips home to his beloved Sunderland. He loves Eeeeeee! but with one small reservation.

Paul wondered­­­­­­­: "Was there not enough budget to add 'Never in a million years'"?

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