The world of cage fighting on Wearside will help one the country’s best-known artists shine a light on modern masculinity.
Grayson Perry visited the area as he put together his new three-part documentary.
The first part, Hard Man, looks at the vulnerabilities of the fighters and sees him join in the Durham Miners’ Gala.
Grayson, who has previously visited Sunderland to make his Vanity of Small Differences artworks and its accompanying documentary, also meets the loved ones of a young man who took his own life.
As a self-described “life-long sissy”, he says he has a problem with machismo, but as he spends time with the fighters, many of his expectations about hyper-macho men are overturned.
The Turner Prize winner, known for his ceramics, huge tapestries and his transvestite alter-ego Claire, shot part of the feature meeting mixed martial artists. They included Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher, who is managed by Made 4 the Cage in Southwick, and trains at Unity Gym in Durham among others.
The 33-year-old, from Washington, is married to Maria, 31, and is dad to Abie, 12, Freddy, six and nine-week-old Arthur.
Colin, who dresses as a terrifying clown as part of his appearance, said: “It was quite fun for me as a bit of an elaborate character myself, I like meeting interesting people, and Grayson Perry is an interesting character.
“He’s looking at men in the olden days and with him being an older man himself, he’s looking at misconceptions and how men have these different facades that have been broken down a lot in modern society.
“I think what the documentary will tell people is that men are very sensitive.
“I’ll be watching it at the same time as everyone else.”
Dale Percival, who manages Colin and runs Made 4 the Cage with Steven France, is also interviewed about his own experiences as a father and son.
He said: “Colin’s alter-ego is a scary, confrontational clown, but outside of that, Colin is very much a family man.
“It was good to have them visit and all the guys had their picture taken with Grayson after he was done – we even taught him a basic choke.”
All Man begins on Thursday, May 5, at 10pm, on Channel 4.