Sunderland’s City of Culture bid goes to Westminster

Sunderland City of Culture Bid 2021 Director Rebecca Ball.
Sunderland City of Culture Bid 2021 Director Rebecca Ball.
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Sunderland is taking its bid to become a City of Culture to Parliament.

The city’s bid team is hosting an event at Westminster tomorrow to raise support among the country’s movers and shakers.

Paul Callaghan

Paul Callaghan

The Sunderland 2021 team, who are in the process of developing a bid that could see the area named the UK’s City of Culture in 2021, are taking to Westminster to spread the word about the benefits a successful bid would bring to the city.

The team will hold a reception in the House of Commons tomorrow, with a packed line-up that will showcase the support the bid is gathering, and the creative talent that would help Sunderland shine if it wins the fiercely contested competition.

The reception, which gets started at 7pm, will see speakers including Julie Elliott MP, The Rt Hon Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Paul Callaghan CBE, Matt Wylie MBE and Bid director Rebecca Ball make the case for the city, with more than 50 invited guests who Sunderland 2021 hope will get behind the city’s bid, and help to raise support for it.

The event will see local talent This Little Bird and Tom Fletcher step into the spotlight, and show just why Sunderland deserves to take home the coveted title.

We are delighted to have people joining us from all over the country who are passionate supporters of Sunderland and have the power to make a real difference to our bid.

Rebecca Ball

“This is set to be a stunning event,” said Rebecca Ball.

“We are delighted to have people joining us from all over the country who are passionate supporters of Sunderland and have the power to make a real difference to our bid.

“It is fantastic to bring along some of our brightest young talent to demonstrate first-hand all that we are capable of. How great it will be to hear the sounds of the city echoing through the corridors of power, when This Little Bird and Tom take centre-stage.”

A giant City of Culture logo lightbox will also be gracing the room in Westminster.

Julie Elliott

Julie Elliott

Among the politicians expected to attend the event are Damian Collins MP, conservative party member for Folkestone and Hythe and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee; and regional politicians including Ian Lucas MP. Some of the leading lights in arts and culture will also be attending, with a guest-list that includes the managing director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the chief executive of the British Library; the director of Theatre for the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and both the director of exhibitions and collections and head of national programmes at the National Portrait Gallery.

Paul Callaghan, who has been one of the driving forces behind the bid, said: “This is a real powerhouse of an event, and a chance to really buy people in to Sunderland’s bid to become a City of Culture.

“What matters is that the judges see just how much this bid means to the people of the city, and that they are able to really understand the enormous benefits this would bring to Sunderland. We have a great deal going for us in the city, and have some incredible talent that we are shining a light on at this event, but ultimately, this is about demonstrating the potential of the city and convincing people that money invested in a programme in Sunderland would deliver real, tangible cultural, social and economic benefits.

“This event is the perfect platform to bring to life just why we deserve to win City of Culture 2021.”

Sunderland’s bid has attracted support from people and businesses across the North East. The most recent organisation to throw its weight behind the bid is the North East Culture Partnership, which represents a range of venues and organisations across the region.

Peter Bromley, North East Culture Partnership manager, said: “We understand the transformative impact that culture can have on a city, and on a region, and a successful City of Culture Bid for Sunderland could really ignite the sector in the area, creating jobs, prosperity and a whole year of activities and events that could bring about positive change in communities in and around Sunderland.

“This is also about legacy. Sunderland would feel the effect of the City of Culture status for years to come.

“We believe the region has so much untapped potential and winning this title would certainly help Sunderland and the wider region unlock so much of that.”

The City of Culture contest is highly competitive, as towns and cities across the country compete for the title. 2017 winner Hull is seeing the national spotlight fall on it this year. It was awarded the title in 2014 and is in the middle of a year that will see a multi-million- pound injection of cultural events, shows, exhibitions, gigs, concerts, festivals, artist residences and outreach activities.

The benefits of winning the title go beyond the initial year’s programme. It is estimated that winning the status will deliver a £60million economic boost to Hull, creating jobs and tourism opportunities throughout the East Riding.

Projections indicate some 1,200 jobs could be created in tourism and culture, that it will bring about a 20 per cent growth in creative industries and that around seven million visitors could contribute to the £184million expected to be pumped into the local economy.

To find out more about the bid and what it could mean for Sunderland, visit, and take part in the conversation on social media by including #sunderland2021 in your posts.