Eight great events to look forward to in Sunderland and beyond in 2018

Christian Radich, one of the ships taking part when The Tall Ships Races come to Sunderland next July. Image courtesy of Sail Training International.Christian Radich, one of the ships taking part when The Tall Ships Races come to Sunderland next July. Image courtesy of Sail Training International.
Christian Radich, one of the ships taking part when The Tall Ships Races come to Sunderland next July. Image courtesy of Sail Training International.

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From mighty masts to two boyband heroes and a cult comedy, there's plenty to look forward to in Sunderland and the surrounding areas in 2018.

Our lifestyle editor rounds up some of her top picks from the forthcoming calendar.

1. Tall Ships Race entertainment July 11-14Though the final details are yet to be announced, there’s a host of entertainment being planned to coincide with the Tall Ships Race when it sails into Sunderland. There’ll be large stages at Keel Square and the docks, as well as smaller stages at spots across the city. As well as live music performances, highlights will include a crew parade on July 12 when the crews of each ship march and play instruments through the streets of the city.

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Sunniside Live crowdsSunniside Live crowds
Sunniside Live crowds

2. Sunniside Live, Sunniside Gardens, July 6-7It’s been announced that the city centre’s only live music festival will return next summer from July 6-7. The headliners for the Friday night will be classic British dance band Soul II Soul. The band, best known for hits Keep on Movin’ and Back To Life, will headline the opening night with more acts, including the Saturday headliner, to be announced soon. Tickets are on sale now from www.sunnisidelive.co.uk3. Matilda, Sunderland Empire, May 8 to June 2The Empire will once again host a North East first when Matilda runs at the venue for four weeks as part of its first UK tour. In a theatrical coup for the Empire, it will be only the third venue on the UK and Ireland tour, and is the latest success story for the venue which has also hosted the regional debuts of Lion King, War Horse and Billy Elliot. The production will be accompanied in each location on the tour by a new education programme to engage young people, inspired by Matilda The Musical, which is based on the classic Roald Dahl novel. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/matilda/sunderland-empire/4. Ronan Keating at Herrington Country Park, August 10Former Boyzone singer and solo star Ronan Keating will headline a new two-day music festival, called Kubix Festival, at Herrington Country Park. He’ll be performing Boyzone classics, as well as some of his solo hits, from a career that’s spanned 62 million album sales and nine UK No.1s - with a supporting line-up including B*Witched, East 17 and Right Said Fred. The organisers have also announced most of the acts who will be appearing on the second day of the festival, on Saturday, August 11. It will feature The Boomtown Rats, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Peter Hook & The Light, The Undertones and The Blockheads. Tickets from http://www.eventim.co.uk5. Gary Barlow, Sunderland Empire, April 30 & May 1Gary Barlow will perform two dates at Sunderland Empire when he embarks on a UK tour in April 2018. Tickets for the city dates sold out soon after going on sale in October. The singer /songwriter last performed on Wearside at two massively successful gigs with Take That at the Stadium of Light. The singer-songwriter and record producer found worldwide fame as a member of British pop group Take That. Since forming in 1989, the band have won eight BRIT awards, sold over 45 million records and over eight million concert tickets.

6. Simple Minds, The Pretenders and KT Tunstall, Durham County Cricket Club, August 19One of the outdoor gig highlights of the year is set to be Simple Minds and The Pretenders with special guest KT Tunstall who will play Durham County Cricket Club’s Emirates Riverside as part of Grandslam 2018. The gig will see Scottish rock icons Simple Minds and The Pretenders, fronted by Chrissie Hynde, share the stage for the first time since Live Aid. Celebrating new albums, Simple Minds and The Pretenders will perform their classic hits, as well as new material at the outdoor gig. KT Tunstall has also been confirmed to join the tour after releasing a new album this summer. Tickets for Grandslam, priced from £37.50, are on sale through www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.lhgtickets.com.

7. League of Gentlemen, Sunderland Empire, August 25 and 26Such was the demand for tickets for the August 25 night of this tour of the cult comedy that a second date was added for the following night. The League of Gentlemen will return to the stage in 2018 for their first UK tour in over 12 years with their brand new live show The League of Gentlemen Live Again, which will open in Sunderland before touring the rest of the country. The tour will see BAFTA Award winning comedy legends Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson bring to life the dark and unhinged fictional village of Royston Vasey.

8. Let’s Rock the North East, Herrington Country Park, June 9Dust off your legwarmers when Tony Hadley, Kim Wilde, ABC, Heaven 17 and Midge Ure will headline Let’s Rock The North East, a celebration of the ‘80s taking place at Herrington Country Park. Other highlights at the festival will include sets from Go West, Nik Kershaw, Nick Heyward, Five Star, The Real Thing, Altered Images and Modern Romance. Hosted by Pat Sharp and Dave Benson Phillips, the event will feature DJ sets by Pat Sharp and Nathan Moore of Brother Beyond. Tickets from www.letsrockthenortheast.com