Toy Dolls exhibition opens at new Sunderland arts venue Norfolk Street Studios

An exhibition celebrating 40 years of Sunderland punk rockers The Toy Dolls is proving popular.

Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 5:45 pm
The Toy Dolls exhibition by Sarah Robson
The Toy Dolls exhibition by Sarah Robson

The Toy Dolls Adventures is on display for the next six weeks at Norfolk Street Studios in Sunniside and marks four raucous decades of the lively band, steeped in Mackem culture, who rose to fame with hit song Nellie the Elephant.

In the early days the band would rehearse in the basement of a neighbouring building to the studios, at 31 Norfolk Street, and the exhibition was commissioned as part of a book about the history of the building.

The Toy Dolls-inspired artworks have been created by artist Sarah Robson, from Farringdon, who said she’s been delighted by the response so far.

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The Toy Dolls formed in 1979

“I’ve been contacted by fans from Mexico asking me to take the exhibition there, but I told them it was a bit too far,” she explained. “The Toy Dolls are such a great band and there’s so many different themes you can go with, from their stage outfits to their props, so it’s been a lot of fun making the pieces.

“I know the band are playing in South Shields in April (at a sold-out Hedworth Hall) but it’s a shame they don’t play more often up here as they have such a huge following.”

The exhibition is one of the first to go on display at 29 Norfolk Street, the latest in a string of buildings in this corner of Sunniside which have been given new life by artist Mark Burns Cassell.

Two years ago, he remortgaged his house to transform listed building, 31 Norfolk Street, into Community Interest Company MBC Arts and Wellbeing.

A ceramic guitar from the exhibition

It’s a gamble that paid off with the Grade II-listed building becoming popular for its community arts workshops and studio space which fosters home-grown talent.

Now, he’s taken his bid to retain Sunderland’s creative talent a step forward with the transformation of two neighbouring buildings, No 28 and 29, to create a ground floor gallery and studio space which can house a number of artists.

*The Toy Doll Adventures exhibition is open at Norfolk Street Studios every Thursday and Friday and alternative Saturdays /Wednesdays. For more information search for Toy Doll Adventures on Facebook.

A string of buildings in Norfolk Street have been turned into creative spaces, and there's a book to celebrate their heritage
A Toy Dolls mask created by Sarah
Glasses from the exhibition
Nellie the Elephant chocolates were created for the launch.