How culture is working to change Sunderland for the better

(from left) Chamber president John McCabe,  John Mowbray, Helen Lee and George Sanger at the Tyne & Wear AGM.
(from left) Chamber president John McCabe, John Mowbray, Helen Lee and George Sanger at the Tyne & Wear AGM.

The role of culture in regenerating Sunderland has been spelled out to business leaders from across the region.

Delegates at the North East England Chamber of Commerce’s Tyne and Wear AGM heard from John Mowbray OBE, chairman of Sunderland University and Music, Art and Culture (MAC) Trust, as he stressed the importance of the arts if a city is to thrive.

We harnessed a series of elements which we know were essential to success including leadership both public and private, vision, ideas, money, partnership, the right people and a mandate to get on with regeneration.

John Mowbray

John, a past Chamber President, told more than 140 guests at the Sunderland Marriott that an area could have the best infrastructure in the world but still needed reasons for people to live there.

The three pillars for a strong city were an excellent education system for all, a vibrant culture and a strong economy.

“I was told a few years ago that Sunderland was a doughnut, successful businesses on the outside but not enough in the city centre,” he said.

“Through the work of the MAC Trust, I am delighted to say there are now new developments in the heart of the city. We have the Fire Station, Dun Cow and Peacock restored pubs and venues as well as a new £6million auditorium being built.

“We harnessed a series of elements which we know were essential to success including leadership both public and private, vision, ideas, money, partnership, the right people and a mandate to get on with regeneration.

“It is all in place and working to change the city for the better.”

He said the Northern Spire new bridge across the Wear would be launched at the end of the summer with a spectacular cultural event, the Tall Ships’ Races would be attracting visitors from across the globe and there was hope that proposals for the National Centre for Imagination would be funded.

Arts and culture could change lives and change a community’s mind-set as well as raising aspirations.

The AGM was sponsored by the North East LEP’s North East Growth Hub. Helen Lee, who leads on the mentoring programme, outlined the LEP’s business growth programme which aims to increase the density of scale-up businesses by 50% by 2024, creating a further 6,000 jobs.

George Sanger, (Pulsant UK) was re-elected Tyne and Wear chair and his vice-chair is Neil Barker (emBark Architecture).

“The same three issues we focused on last year, devolution, Brexit and Great Exhibition of the North (GETNorth), are still important today,” said George.

“There is great progress on the first of these with the North of Tyne devolution deal, Brexit is still challenging but the GETNorth will be a great opportunity to celebrate our innovative past and present.

“2018 could well be another challenging year, particularly around Brexit. But we’re robust in the North East, and we will do what we always do, make the most of whatever hand we are dealt and use our assets to create opportunity.”