“What a brilliant year 2018 has been for Sunderland.”
That’s the view of council leader Coun Graeme Miller as he looks back on a bumper year which has seen everything from the opening of Sunderland’s landmark Northern Spire bridge, to a start on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park and the visit of more than 50 of the world’s most magnificent tall ships.
In February we welcomed two very special visitors when William and Kate gave our landmark Northern Spire their royal seal of approval, meeting schoolchildren and those involved in its construction.
March saw our gritters and snow clearing crews working round the clock to tackle the ‘Beast from the East’ and keep the city moving as we saw our heaviest snowfall for years.
There was better news in April when a report recorded Sunderland having the sixth fastest growing economy in the country and more good news when the University of Sunderland announced plans for a medical school.
Active Sunderland was very much the theme in May, with the launch of our 2018 BIG Events programme, including the BIG 3k, BIG Bike Ride and BIG Walk, and five community sports festivals getting people active across the city.
June was all about young people, with almost 1,000 young people attending our annual Work Discovery Week to join in a range of challenges, activities, workshops and demonstrations.
Importantly, this was also an opportunity to meet businesses they might want to work for and discover more about skills to improve their employability.
All eyes were on Sunderland in July as we welcomed a majestic fleet of more than 50 of the world’s most impressive tall ships, one Princess and 1.2 million visitors when we hosted The Tall Ships Races 2018, then less than two weeks later, the 30th Sunderland Airshow.
Who could forget that breathtaking high-wire walk across the River Wear, the magnificent stunning tall ships, or the awesome Red Arrows performing their seafront aerobatics?
August saw the much-anticipated opening of our very own Northern Spire, with more than 20,000 people visiting the bridge before the £117million structure opened to traffic.
Work also started on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, which will create over 7,000 jobs.
There was more good news with Sunderland ranked one of the top tech cities in the UK and a national newspaper naming Roker Pier one of the world’s 10 best piers.
In September we welcomed back the Broadway hit Wicked, along with almost 20,000 new students and the annual Sunderland Pride event.
October saw Sunderland Illuminations and Festival of Light bringing £6m into the local economy and the city very much in the national limelight as Strictly Come Dancing’s Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice danced their way across the Northern Spire bridge, attracting an audience of 11.9 million.
In November we had the welcome news of a return of stadium concerts, with the announcement of the Spice Girls 2019 tour and Sunderland named best place to live and work in the UK for the under-30s.
The number of new homes also continued to outpace expectations for a fourth year with 451 built between April and November.
The city was back in the national spotlight this month with the screening of the eight-part Netflix series Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ featuring the city’s ‘unfailing passion for its beloved football club’.
With another exciting year to look forward to in 2019 as the city council continues to invest, protect and work for you all, I wish you the very best and a Happy New Year.