Thousands of Wearsiders turn out as Sunderland’s 2021 City of Culture bid is launched

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Thousands of people turned out to show their support as Sunderland’s bid to become the UK’s City of Culture for 2021 was officially launched.

Families were in raptures as different performers took to a stage at the city centre’s Keel Square for the bid’s launch event.

Sunderland launched its City of Culture bid in the city's Keel Square. Barry Hyde, of the indie rock band The Futureheads performs with The Six-Hour Choir.

Sunderland launched its City of Culture bid in the city's Keel Square. Barry Hyde, of the indie rock band The Futureheads performs with The Six-Hour Choir.

The new space came alive with music, dance and street performance as a weekend of events kicked off.

Entertainment included a performance from Sunderland University students; a newly commissioned piece from Theatre Space NE; Futureheads frontman Barry Hyde, bands including Frankie and the Heartstrings; the cast of Shrek The Musical which comes to the Empire Theatre in November, and a the premiere City of Culture Film showing community groups and Wearsiders talking about what Sunderland means to them.

Chairman of the Music Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, which has been behind the organisation of the bid, Paul Callaghan, told the Echo: “I’m sure we can win the culture bid and I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think we could.

“We have a city which is absolutely full of new-found optimism and vitality and we can achieve this if we work together.

“We have a city which is absolutely full of new-found optimism and vitality and we can achieve this if we work together.”

Paul Callaghan, chairman of the MAC Trust

“Tonight has shown that Sunderland has diversity. We aren’t just good at music, we’re good at lots of things and tonight has been an exhibition of that.”

Should the bid be successful it could provide a huge cultural and economic boost to the city.

The UK City of Culture programme, which runs every four years, was developed by the Government to build on the success of Liverpool being named European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Hull has won the title for 2017 and that is where the winning city for 2021 will be announced.

Councillor John Kelly, the city council’s portfolio holder for culture, added: “It’s been a great night for us to show off our cultural offering which goes across the whole arts spectrum.

“We’re building relationships with a lot of partners and that can only be good.”