City of culture bid could spark Sunderland renaissance

Community champion Tony Downey reckons being named UK City of Culture 2021 could spark a real renaissance in Sunderland.

Before his retirement, Tony, 73, worked as an adoptions and fostering officer for Sunderland City Council’s social services department.

Tony Downey.

Tony Downey.

He was born in Millfield, but now lives in The Oaks, and has always been passionate about his home city.

Today, with 15 days to go until the UK City of Culture bid final bid has to be submitted, he explained why he has become a culture champion.

“I became a City of Culture champion because I have a deep affection for my city and wanted to do something to help the bid.

“I think the city really needs something like the bid, and I’m sure the city as a whole would respond to it - the effect on the city would be transformative.

“The positive effect it would have and the euphoria would sway anyone who isn’t sure about the bid.

“I’d like the 2021 programme to reflect our past.

"For instance, the area was the birthplace of Gregorian chanting in this country, so it would be great to have a festival based on Gregorian chanting.

"I think people would come from all over for something like that.

“I would see a successful bid as a renaissance for Sunderland, bringing confidence and purpose to the city.

"We’d be seen as a vibrant city, with people of real vision and commitment.”

Sunderland is up against Coventry, Paisley, Swansea and Stoke as it bids to be named UK City of Culture.

A successful bid would put the city firmly into the cultural spotlight, 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.

Final second-round bids must be submitted by September 29, and the successful city will be announced in Hull, the current UK City of Culture, in December.