Katie Bulmer-Cooke: There are cultural opportunities everywhere in Sunderland

Mackem Mona Lisas exhibition at Mackie's Corner.
Mackem Mona Lisas exhibition at Mackie's Corner.
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This week saw the release of the first video that I co-hosted with Josh Wilkinson, exploring where National Lottery funding is spent in Sunderland.

The first episode of Untold Stories: Sunderland, featured a project called The Cultural Spring; an exciting and ambitious project who’s aim is to get more people in Sunderland to experience and be inspired by the arts.

During filming, we learned that the project has received more than £1million of National Lottery funding which is used to create art-based offerings specifically for people in Sunderland to engage with.

It quickly became clear that art is for everyone, no matter who you are, where you are from or if you have any previous art experience.

Before meeting with artist Jo Howell, who leads the #weareexperimenting sessions, personally I had no idea exactly how art would be used to benefit the community, but after asking Jo a few questions, it became obvious that art most certainly has an important place in Sunderland.

We heard stories of people who used the sessions to combat loneliness, improve confidence, raise aspirations, learn new skills, socialise and meet new people, to name but a few of the many ways Sunderland residents have benefited from sessions run by talented artists like Jo.

We also met Emma Horsman, who is the project director of the Cultural Spring.

Like Jo, she had so much passion and enthusiasm for the project and shared so many heart-warming stories about how art has benefited people in the city.

She spoke with great energy about how people had worked together to create art work that is displayed in venues in the city.

We were lucky enough to see some of the artwork on display at Mackie’s Corner.

Many of the pieces were created by people who were new to the skills taught in the workshops and they were extremely impressive.

It’s fair to say we have some very talented people in our city!

Me and Josh were both wowed by the fact the The Cultural Spring has engaged more than 40,000 people in Sunderland, in arts activities, events and workshops since 2014, encouraging those who don’t normally see art as a big part of their lives to be inspired by our city’s creative culture.

The project has engaged Mackems of all ages, from students and young children to the elderly and volunteers, and has undoubtedly had a very positive impact on the city.

I’ve lived in Sunderland my whole life, and I like to think I know a decent amount about what goes on here, but I had no clue that projects like this were running and helping create a greater sense of community.

The Cultural Spring shows that, yet again, there are opportunities everywhere in Sunderland ... you just have to grab them!