Pride as Sunderland celebrates 25 years of city status

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Wearside turns silver today, as Sunderland celebrates 25 years as a city.

It was on Valentine’s Day 1992 that the announcement was made that the Queen had agreed to confer city status upon Sunderland as part of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of her reign.

Mayor Councillor David Thompson and chief executive Geoffrey Key collect the official document.

Mayor Councillor David Thompson and chief executive Geoffrey Key collect the official document.

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On May 20, 1992, a civic delegation travelled to London for an historic audience with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace to receive the Letters Patent, the documents which marked the official confirmation of city status.

June 28 was declared as City Day, with the doors of all the new city’s leisure complexes thrown open for visitors to use of charge.

The years between have been marked by any number of memorable events, good and bad - from the loss of the iconic Vaux Brewery to the opening of the Stadium of Light, by way of a new university campus, the city becoming the face of the UK’s Brexit vote and the emergence of Europe’s most productive car plant.

It was a really exciting time in Sunderland - everybody was excited about it. We had wanted city status for many years and eventually got it.

Coun Dave Allan

Current Hendon councillor Barbara McClennan was the Echo’s local government reporter in 1992 and covered the big announcement.

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The creation of Britain’s 54th city was intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s reign and competition was intense, she recalled.

“We had to submit a bid and they put a big document together about the city,” said Coun McClennan.

“They put a lot in about the history of the city, because Sunderland has such a wonderful history, but also about every aspect of life in the city, including the people,who are the most important.”

It was Sunderland’s fifth attempt to become a city and even though Home Secretary Kenneth Baker had invited the council to bid for city status, the outcome had been by no means a foregone conclusion: “I think Sunderland was one of three finalists. They kept it a real secret,” said Barbara.

“It was very much a big surprise for everybody. It was all hush-hush until we had a ceremony in the Mayor’s Parlour with the chief executive and the leader of the council at which the result was announced.

“I think everybody was just delighted. It was a really happy day for the city.”

Sandhill ward member Coun Dave Allan is Sunderland’s longest-serving councillor: “We were up on the roof of the civic centre and we let off a series of balloons to celebrate,” he said.

“There was a photo on the front page of the Echo.

“It was a really exciting time in Sunderland - everybody was excited about it. We had wanted city status for many years and eventually got it.

“It doesn’t feel like 25 years - it just seems like a few weeks since we were on the roof of the civic centre.

“There is an awful lot happened since and there is an awful lot happening today.

“Sometimes, when you are born in a place, you don’t realise how good it is. I feel really lucky to have been born in Sunderland and I have never regretted spending my whole life, my whole 64 years, in Sunderland.”

Mayor of Sunderland Coun Alan Emerson, said: “Sunderland has changed immeasurably in the last 25 years.

“Just this last week we’ve seen the pylon for the new bridge taking its place on the city’s skyline and there are a lot more developments in the pipeline that are set to transform the city over the coming years.

“But what really makes the city are its people – it’s them and they contribution they make to the life of the city that I’m most proud of.”