Sunderland's Sikh community welcomes the city

Sunderland's Sikh community threw open its doors to welcome people from across the city today, to mark one of the religion's holiest days.

Sunderland Sikh Association, in The Cloisters, Ashbrooke, held an open day to celebrate Vaisakhi.

There were some colourful outfits on display

There were some colourful outfits on display

The festival marks the anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa - the Sikh order or community into which all followers of the religion are baptised or initiated - in 1699.

This year's event, supported by Sunderland City Council and Gentoo, put the spotlight on Sikh culture, with displays of music and dancing, as well as crafts and food.

Paula Dale is secretary of the Sunderland Sikh Association: "We hope it will be as good as last year or even better," she said.

"We want everybody to join in and found out more about our culture.

The day was a celebration of Sikh culture

The day was a celebration of Sikh culture

"Today is about making people aware of what we do in Sunderland and what our culture is about."

Mayor of Sunderland Coun Doris MacKnight was among the civic dignitaries invited to the event.

She and consort, husband Keith, were enjoying one of the last functions of their year in office.

"It has been absolutely fantastic. We have met so many interesting people over the course of the year," she said.

Youngsters were among those performing

Youngsters were among those performing

"It is very important to be here today. We have to embrace all kinds of religions and cultures in our city.

"We all need to know more about our community."

Sunderland City Council Tory leader Coun Robert Oliver was also on hand to show his support: "I think it is a marvellous occasion and it is a real privilege to be invited to attend today," he said.

"It is a really good way to strengthen the links between all our communities here in Sunderland."

Philip Eggleston had travelled from Seaham with sons Harry, nine, and six-year-old Jake. One of Harry's classmates was among the performers taking part.

"For me, it is important to celebrate the communities we have," said Philip.

"It is nice to bring the boys to a day like this - it opens their horizons and broadens their minds.

"It is good to learn a little bit about other cultures."