Sunderland University boss Graeme Thompson receives MBE for services to city

The man spearheading the use of culture to regenerate Sunderland has been honoured by the Queen.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 10:30 pm

Sunderland University pro-vice chancellor Graeme Thompson is made an MBE in the Birthday Honours for services to cultural regeneration in the city.

The 64-year-old was founding chair of Sunderland Culture, a unique partnership between the university, Sunderland City Council and the Music, Arts and Culture Trust with the aim to ‘transform reach, visibility and impact of Sunderland’s cultural scene.’ He is also chair of Sunderland and South Tyneside community arts project The Cultural Spring.

More than two million people visited venues and programmes organised by the partnership, with 50,000 direct participants, 17,000 school visitors and 550 volunteers. More than £5 million was raised in grants and awards.

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Graeme Thompson MBE
Graeme Thompson MBE

The citation for today’s award says: “In six years, he has transformed perceptions of the city. It is nationally regarded as an exemplar of how culture can change a place.”

Graeme said he had been surprised and honoured to learn that he had been nominated but his work would not have been possible without the support of the Sunderland Culture team: “I am absolutely delighted that Sunderland’s pioneering work in culture-led regeneration has been recognised,” he said.

"It has been made possible as a result of a unique partnership between the University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council, the philanthropy of the Sunderland Music Arts and Culture Trust and funders such as Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery.

"I’m honoured to have been singled out for this award but I share it with so many friends and colleagues who’ve worked over the past decade to re-imagine the city’s cultural landscape.”

Originally from South Shields, Graeme joined the University of Sunderland in 2009 after a career with the BBC and ITV. He chairs the Royal Television Society Education Committee, which has provided bursaries and mentoring for more than 120 students from across the UK, and the annual RTS Television Awards for the North East and the Borders.

A trustee of the Customs House in South Shields and the North East and Yorkshire Film and Television Archive, he is a member of council for the Creative Industries Federation and for Arts Council North, a board member for the North East Culture Partnership and Sunderland Business Improvement District.

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