Funk and jazz band The Brand New Heavies will headline Sunderland’s only live music festival.
Last year’s inaugural Sunniside Live proved so popular that it will return for 2016 with a more high-profile line-up of acts on the bill.
Ahead of a US tour, The Brand New Heavies, whose tracks include hits Midnight at the Oasis and Dream on Dreamer, will perform on stage at Sunniside Gardens on Saturday, July 16.
More acts and ticket details will be announced in the coming days for the festival, the only one of its kind in the city after the demise of Split Festival, which will run from noon until 10pm.
After carrying out a crowd safety assessment, Police have allowed organisers to almost double the festival’s capacity from last year.
The event is the brainchild of Sean Maddison and Helen Davies, who run Bar Justice and Gin & Bear It in Sunnisde, in a bid to breathe new life into the often under-used area of the city centre.
“We were over the moon with the response to last year’s event,” explained Sean. “And it’s that response that’s made us stage it again. We believe, as a business, that it helped to raise the profile of the area. Since last year, we’ve opened Gin & Bear It and new businesses such as Papadoms and Thai Bay have opened.
“On the day of the festival, places likes Bar Justice and Angelo’s did a great trade. It’s a great way of reminding people we’re here.”
Last year’s free event sold out of wristbands as thousands flocked to see Sunderland’s own Frankie & the Heartstrings, Hyde & Beast and The Voice finalist Olivia Lawson.
This year, organisers have been able to increase the capacity from 2,500 to 4,000 and have added a wristband charge of £10.
“Police were cautious last year because it was the first one, but there were absolutely no problems or arrests, so they have allowed us to increase the capacity,” said Sean. “We’ve raised the bar in terms of acts and the size of the stage and there’s been more of a cost for us to book the acts, which is why we’ve introduced a charge. But we’ve tried to keep it as low as possible. Usually you would pay around £30 to see a band like The Brand New Heavies at 02 Academy, but we’re charging a tenner for a whole day of music.”
The event will also feature a host of food and drink stalls.
Helen said: “We carried out surveys at the end of last year’s event and people said they would like to see more food stalls and bars, so we’ve taken that into consideration.”