Katie Bulmer-Cooke: How Sunderland has upped its game as a city

Sunderland Christmas lights switch-on. Pixie Lott
Sunderland Christmas lights switch-on. Pixie Lott

I always have been, and always will be proud to be from Sunderland, but I felt an extra sense of pride on Thursday when I visited the city centre in the evening.

There was so much going on and the vibe from Keel Square all the way through The Bridges was great.

I honestly felt as though I was in a city that had all the attributes of one that could very well win UK City of Culture 2021.

There was so much to see and do.

First up we had a big name pop star turning on our Christmas Lights.

Pixie Lott gave us mackems a fantastic performance and from the traffic going into the city centre and the number of people that turned out to watch her, it was clear that she really pulled in the crowds and, of course, Simon and Danni, from Sun FM, did a great job of hosting the event.

Literally just around the corner was the Fireflight event – a spectacular event ending with an awesome fire works display.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected it to be such a spectacle, but it was a fantastic event that appeared to be very well received by those who attended.

And speaking of attendance, just like the Christmas light switch on, it was busy and buzzing.

Then for those who didn’t want to brave the cold, there was plenty to be entertained by in The Bridges.

I have never seen it so busy on a Thursday evening, in fact, it was so lively it felt like the first Saturday after pay day.

It wasn’t just people passing through to get to the other events of the evening, the shops were doing an excellent trade too.

A certain gentleman in a red suit is also back to visit us in The Bridges and the line to see him stretched all the way around his grotto, passed HMV and the Disney Store.

I feel like as a city we’ve upped our game. The events are bigger, better and more varied and there is a great energy in the city centre.

The Fire Station looks incredible, Keel Square has become a sought after hub for events and The Bridges is attracting top new retailers such as Toys R Us and Smiggle and existing retailers are expanding.

I speak to a lot of people in Sunderland every single week, and the language used about the city is changing for the better.

There is a sense of pride and residents are realising that you don’t have to go to Newcastle for a good night out, we have excellent restaurants and events right here in Sunderland.

I firmly believe that we should win UK City of Culture 2021. We deserve it, and Thursday night was just one of many examples why.