Families celebrate city's maritime heritage with first Sunderland River Festival

Sunderland’s shipbuilding history has been recognised once again with the launch of a new festival on the city’s riverside.

Saturday, 31st August 2019, 15:56 pm
Updated Sunday, 1st September 2019, 12:10 pm

The inaugural Sunderland River Festival began on Saturday, August 31 with live music, storytelling and watersports demonstrations among the entertainment on offer.

It’s one year since Sunderland’s stint as starting host port for the award-winning Tall Ships Races – and it seemed like the perfect time to bring a packed programme of fun events back to opposite banks of the Wear.

As the sun peeped out from behind the clouds, families from across the city and beyond headed to St Peter’s Campus and Low Street to see what was on show.

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And it was all systems go on both sides of the river, with giant fishermen spotted roaming the banks on the south side while visitors enjoyed punchy performances from Esh Colliery Band and NASUWT Concert Band.

Meanwhile, on the north side, families were invited to view an interactive show staged inside a giant inflatable blue whale – a first for their summer holiday – and live music too!

But no matter where you were, you could not miss the display on the River Wear, which included a range of tricks from champion jet skier Jason Bleasdale, and a closer look at the Caroline Allen, a miniature tall ship which was dropped anchor in the city for the duration of the festival.

Sarah Johnson, who lives near the town centre and works as a teacher, said it was great to see visitors taking advantage of what the riverside had to offer.

Crowds gather for the first Sunderland River Festival.

She added: “[The festival] has been lovely and it’s great for Sunderland, especially in this area because it was very popular – so to build it back up would be fantastic.”

The free event is also taking place throughout Sunday, September 1, with a water programme set to take place between 12pm and 5pm.

Speaking to the Echo, David Newtick and Paul Brickle said the two-day festival was a great idea to bring people down to the Wear – but that more should be done to showcase the river and Sunderland’s fame for once being the world’s largest shipbuilding town.

Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon and Mayoress Councillor Dianne Snowdon.
Jason Bleasdale demonstrates his jet ski skills on the River Wear.
All smiles for the camera at the first Sunderland River Festival.
Arts and crafts on display at the two-day Sunderland River Festival.