Tyne to be friends! Why the Geordies are backing Sunderland's City of Culture bid

Newcastle is backing Sunderland's bid to be City of Culture in 2021.
Newcastle is backing Sunderland's bid to be City of Culture in 2021.
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Traditional Tyne-Wear rivalries have been cast aside after Newcastle gave its support to Sunderland’s bid to become City of Culture 2021.

The official endorsement came at the latest meeting of Newcastle City Council, when it voted to back its neighbour’s campaign.

Civic figures in Newcastle now hope other towns and local authorities in the north east will follow their example and get behind the bid.

Coun David Faulkner, Lib Dem spokesperson for Finance and Resources, and former Group and City Council Leader, proposed a motion backing the bid.

He said: "The perception is that Newcastle and Sunderland do not always sing off the same hymn sheet but that’s not necessarily the case.

"Sunderland are already doing some really interesting things in the arts and culture sector and even if they were shortlisted for City of Culture, it would be a tremendous boost for the city and the region.

"The bid to become City of Culture 2021 is a tremendous opportunity for Sunderland, and the city can match what has happened both in Newcastle and Gateshead.

"I very much hope that other regional authorities would look at what we’ve done as a council and will also back the bid. It’s a Sunderland created and led bid, but there’s no doubt it will benefit the wider north east in terms of jobs, investment and profile."

The amended motion was agreed unanimously by Newcastle City Councillors.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Kim McGuinness, Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities and Culture, said: "We would like to express our strong hope that Sunderland, as one of our neighbours, makes the shortlist in May to become UK City of Culture in 2021, and goes on to become the successful bidder.

"Success for Sunderland would recognise the city as a significant centre for arts, heritage and culture, attracting millions of pounds into the local economy through investment in the arts and an increase in visitors and jobs.

"It would kick-start a four-year period of growth, innovation and creativity and culminate in a year of exciting cultural and artistic events.

"It would also be beneficial for the entire region, as will the Great Exhibition of the North next year which Newcastle and Gateshead will host."

Welcoming the backing from Newcastle, Sunderland City Council Leader Coun Paul Watson, said: “I’m delighted that Newcastle City Council is supporting our bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021.

"You only have to look at some of the cultural developments we have seen in Newcastle and the wider north east in recent years to see that culture can be a real catalyst for change.

"I firmly believe that winning the bid would bring huge benefits not just to Sunderland but to the whole of the North East."

Becoming City of Culture can provide a financial windfall.

It is estimated that winning this year’s title will benefit Hull’s economy by about £60m, with more than £1bn having already been invested since it was announced it had won the competition in 2013.

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 millions expected to be pumped into the local economy.

In 2002 Newcastle was shortlisted for the European Capital of Culture 2008 title, but lost out to Liverpool. In 2009 Durham lost out on a bid to become UK City of Culture for 2013.

Last month the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed which towns and cities Sunderland will be competing against for the title.

They are Coventry, Hereford, Paisley, Perth, Portsmouth, St David’s, Stoke-on- Trent, Swansea, Warrington and Wells.

The Heritage Lottery Fund announced it would commit £3m to the holder of the UK City of Culture title from 2021 onwards to boost local heritage.

The bid is being written by a team from Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, the University of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council.

The bid will be submitted on April 28; a shortlist is then drawn up with four cities invited to submit second round bids in September with the winner being announced in Hull in December.