It was the dawn of a new chapter for Sunderland’s cultural landscape at a major launch today.
A new £60million programme aimed at boosting the city’s cultural assets and driving more engagement in the arts than ever before was launched at National Glass Centre.
Taking place over seven years, the programme, titled Twenty Four Seven, aims to capitalise upon the momentum built by the city’s bid to become City of Culture 2021.
Though Sunderland lost out on the title to Coventry, Rebeccca Ball, former bid director and now creative director of Twenty Four Seven, says the bid highlighted an appetite for the arts, as well as the potential for regeneration through culture.
Citing the major £3.5million Fire Station culture hub in the city centre as an example, she said: “When the Fire Station was launched the free tickets were snapped up in minutes after they were made available, because there’s an appetite to be involved and an appetite for the regeneration of the city.
“When the competition judges came to visit we put out a call out on Twitter for people to post about their favourite places and people and ‘Welcome to Sunderland’ was trending for five, six hours nationally. There was a brilliant sense of people coming together and being involved and we want to continue that.”
Organisers have already secured £40million of the funds needed for Twenty Four Seven, with another £20million to be raised.
Over the course of the next seven years, the city can expect new venues, workspaces, events, participation programmes and heritage regeneration which is aimed at putting the city on the map, increasing the uptake of arts in the city and boosting the economy.
Highlights which are already set to take place under the umbrella of Twenty Four Seven are the Tall Ships entertainment programme and opening of the Northern Spire this year; the opening of the soon-to-be-built auditorium next to the Fire Station in 2019 and the potential opening of a National Centre for Imagination in 2020.
Graeme Thompson, pro-vice chancellor at Sunderland University and chairman of Sunderland Culture, said: “What the bid did was to act as a catalyst for the city’s cultural ambitions.
“We may not have won, but a lot of what was envisaged and hoped for in the bid we are going to do anyway.”
Coun Harry Trueman, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We sadly missed out on the bid, but we can take comfort in the fact that the minister said we came very close. It was a great effort from the city.
“We need to continue that legacy. We can’t just give up and make do with what we’ve got. We’re an ambitious city and we need to take that forward.”
The Twenty Four Seven programme was launched on the same day as the unveiling of the new home for the National Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA).
The oldest contemporary art gallery in the region, NGCA had been based in Fawcett Street until the City Library and Arts Centre closed.
Now, former workshop space at the National Glass Centre has been converted to permanently house the NGCA, adding to the existing galleries already in situ at the glass centre.
The inaugural exhibition at the new NGCA is Material Sight by Fiona Crisp, which will run from this weekend until May 13.
The display features footage and photographs from Fiona’s time spent at scientific spaces not open to the public: Boulby Underground Laboratory near Whitby, Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology and Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, the world’s largest underground laboratory for particle physics, housed inside a mountain in Italy.
The artist said: “Material Sight is the result of an intense research project with three different world leaders in their field for fundamental science. “I’m not a scientist, but I was interested in the fields of science which are difficult for lay people to get their head around. These are three sites which are not accessible to the public, such as the Boulby site which is a mile underground and the laboratory in Italy in a mountain, which is like something out of James Bond. I found a paradox between the physicality of the spaces and the invisibility of the science.”