Seven of the best entertainment highlights in Sunderland and surrounding areas in 2017

Dave Stewart takes to the Sunderland Empire stage for his 65th birthday Homecoming gig.
Dave Stewart takes to the Sunderland Empire stage for his 65th birthday Homecoming gig.
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From the return of a rock veteran to turning back the clock to the heady days of Madchester, 2017 brought a host of top events to Wearside and the surrounding areas.

Our lifestyle editor rounds up her picks of the year.

Bez from Happy Mondays at Sunniside Live

Bez from Happy Mondays at Sunniside Live

1. Dave Stewart at Sunderland Empire, September
There are few music moments of the year that could top the sight and sound of Dave Stewart performing his classic Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, accompanied by the mighty Easington Colliery Brass Band, on his hometown stage. It was a rousing finale which topped off a spectacular performance, and Dave’s Empire debut, to mark the Barnes-born musician’s 65th birthday. He’s known as The Ringmaster in the music industry, and for this unique concert the multi-million record-selling musician rounded up a world-class bill of entertainers, including Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell, West End and Broadway performer Ryan Molloy and a band made up of top Nashville musicians. There was also some exceptional performances from local acts The Lake Poets, Social Room, Lilliput and Picnic in this tour de force of musical talent.

2. The Farm and Happy Mondays at Sunniside Live, July
For one night only the usually sleepy Sunniside Gardens turned into Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub. The Happy Mondays headlined the second night of the best Sunniside Live yet with Bez and Co shaking their maracas to some of the band’s greatest hits, including the iconic Step On. A capacity crowd of 4,000 people packed into the area to see them top a bill which also included Liverpool’s The Farm who led the thousands in a sing-a-long of their anthem All Together Now, changing the words to “All Together Now in Sunderland” as frontman Peter Hooton praised the atmosphere at the festival. One of the most spine-tingling moments came as he paid tribute to the bravery of Bradley Lowery who’d lost his battle with cancer the night before. United in grief, the crowd broke into a spontaneous ‘One Bradley Lowery’ chant.

3. Fireflight at the launch of The Fire Station, November
Not your average sight in a city centre car park, acclaimed performance troupe Periplum brought their striking blend of pyrotechnics, performance art and contemporary dance to Sunderland to mark the opening of the city’s £3.5million Fire Station development. Taking place in the car park to the side of the station, the piece was inspired by the tale of The Lambton Worm and the city’s heritage. About 1,000 people attended the carpark performance with thousands more watching the firework finale at the front of the new Fire Station, which is comprised of dance and drama studios, a heritage centre and a new bistro called The Engine Room.

4. Lumiere, Durham City, November
Almost a quarter of a million people flocked to Durham to see the Lumiere light festival, which takes place every two years. This year’s collection of artworks, which were scattered across the city, included What Matters at St Oswald’s Church. University of Sunderland students joined volunteers to help install the two immersive light and glass installations which depicted the birth of light in the universe. Hours of pain-staking work had gone into creating 2,000 glass shards representing the fragments of the galaxy after the Big Bang, which were partly created at National Glass Centre.

Fireflight at the launch of the Fire Station

Fireflight at the launch of the Fire Station

5. Diwali celebrations, National Glass Centre, November
More than 4,000 people enjoyed this celebration of the Hindu festival of light, the city’s biggest yet. Entertainment included Bollywood and Bhangra dancing, music, make-up demonstrations, face painting, classical dancing, a fashion stall, yoga and arts and crafts. It’s hoped this colourful celebration will become an annual highlight in Sunderland’s calendar.

6. Pixie Lott, Keel Square, November
Better than your average Christmas lights switch-on, this year’s featured a performance from pop princess Pixie Lott. She performed a set featuring hits All About Tonight and Boys and Girls, before getting everyone in the spirit with some festive tracks including Dreaming of a White Christmas, and closing with her latest single Won’t Forget You. It was just a shame it happened on the same night as the launch of the Fire Station as some people missed out on seeing both performances.

7. Rod Stewart, Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street, June
We may have had to wave goodbye to the gigs at the Stadium of Light for now, but Emirates ICG has stepped up its concerts playing host to the likes of Little Mix and Rod Stewart this year. Though the Little Mix gig was met with a mixed reaction due to the lacklustre staging, Rod Stewart proved more of a hit. A record crowd of 17,000 went to see the legendary rocker who has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. Simple Minds and The Pretenders with special guest KT Tunstall have already been lined up to perform at the venue next year.

What Matters at Lumiere

What Matters at Lumiere

Dancer Aswathy Sunil at Sunderland's Diwali Festival, the National Glass Centre.

Dancer Aswathy Sunil at Sunderland's Diwali Festival, the National Glass Centre.

Sunderland Christmas lights switch on.'Pixie Lott

Sunderland Christmas lights switch on.'Pixie Lott