Sunderland: City of Culture for 2021?

Competition increases as bid deadline looms for 11 featured cities

Sunderland has been a city of learning, innovation and culture since the 7th Century. By the 18th Century, it was the greatest shipbuilding town of its time. Recent decades have seen a decline in industry but arts and culture have continued to play a key role in the shaping of the city. The bid to become the UK City of Culture 2021 is seen as a continuation of the transformation of key areas of the city, including the regeneration of the new Music, Arts and Culture Quarter, the redevelopment of the seafront and the old fire station, the new bridge across the River Wear and the redevelopment of the old Vaux Brewery site in the city centre.

The Bid Team hopes to build on the momentum of this positive change and kick-start a four-year period of growth, innovation and creativity. Winning cities also tend to become hubs for major national and international cultural events, such as the Turner prize or the BRIT awards and are awarded visiting exhibitions and loans from world-class art galleries and museums.

The first stage of the competition to become UK City of Culture 2021 will see initial bids from all eleven candidate cities submitted to the judging panel on April 28th. These bids will be assessed and a shortlist of four will be invited to submit a second-round bid by 29th September, with a final decision announced in December. The Bid Team for Sunderland comprises of staff from the University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council and the Music, Arts and Culture Trust.

A winning bid would see Sunderland establish itself as a national centre for the arts, culture and heritage, attracting millions of pounds into the local economy through investment into the arts and an increase is tourism and jobs. Even if their bid is unsuccessful, Sunderland may find that the development of such a bid could still prove lucrative – such as in the case of Durham’s Lumiere Festival which grew from a failed bid and attracted 175,000 visitors – pouring £5.8 million into the local economy.

Exact details of the bid remain a closely-guarded secret, as one would expect until the shortlist is announced in April. In the meantime, the Bid Team are trying to engage the people of their city to support the bid, with a social media campaign asking residents to “nail their colours to the mast” and get behind their city, asking residents to let the team know the reasons they think Sunderland should be City of Culture. The bid could benefit everyone in the city but requires a whole city effort to achieve success.

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