New group wants to make Sunderland a city of artists

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A collection of Sunderland arts groups have joined forces in a bid to encourage families to get crafty.

One of the first projects by the Sunderland Family Arts Network (FAN) was to stage a number of art activities around the city during half-term.

The network was formed as part of the Arts Council-supported Family Arts Campaign and includes: Creative Cohesion; Arts Centre Washington; Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art; ASSIGN E-on Arts; Deborah Cauchi Fine Arts and The Bunker.

Lesley Cooperwaite, artist and trustee of Creative Cohesion, said: “We’re so pleased to be able to offer so many wonderful workshops as part of the Family Arts Network in Sunderland. All of the events have been a success. It is just really nice to see people in the buildings and children making things. This is what it should be like.

“It’s a shame it can’t be like this everyday. We plan to run similar events in the future.

“In the lead up to Christmas we will be holding bauble blowing workshops, where people can have a go at blowing a glass bauble themselves.

“So many people think there’s nothing going on in Sunderland for children and families to get involved in the arts.

“The network is working to change this perception and ensure everyone gets fair access to art in our city.”

The network was set up in response to the Family Arts Festival, a nationwide campaign, which aims to develop the range of arts events and activities available to families across the UK.

Kathryn Tye, Creative Cohesion and the Network’s co-ordinator, said: “Sunderland has a thriving and vibrant creative scene with a wide range of creative businesses and venues, offering the chance to experience art and creativity at the highest level.

“We want families to see Sunderland as a hub of creative activity, to enable families from wide and diverse backgrounds to come together to enjoy and interact with creative activities and events.”

Over the half-term break, the Family Arts Network ran a series of family arts activities, which proved to be hit.

Families could take part in activities such as The Big Draw at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. This gave children the opportunity to create Hallowe’en costumes using arts and crafts and show off their drawing skills on a giant blackboard.

Creative Cohesion also ran a number of events at their Sunniside Studios, including Hallowe’en Craft workshops and Glass Lantern Painting.

Sunderland artist group, ASSIGN, who have now been running for 10 years, were keen to get involved in the network.

Tony Redman, chairman of ASSIGN, said: “We absolutely need more events like this in Sunderland. The work of the Family Arts Network will be extremely beneficial to the city. Especially kids. If you can get them involved in the arts in some way it will be beneficial in the long run.”

l For more information about FAN visit or Twitter: @FANSunderland.