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Sunderland misses out on the chance to host UK City of Culture in 2021

The team behind Sunderland bid spent months trying to persuade judges that the city had what it takes to win. Photo: ITV News

Sunderland has missed out to Coventry on becoming the UK City of Culture 2021.

The announcement, made by Arts Minister John Glen, comes as the current UK City of Culture, Hull's year-long celebration nears an end.

People gathered at Pop Recs music store in Sunderland to hear the news, and were clearly disappointed in their reaction:

Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea were all in the running for the title, which is credited with attracting major investment to former winners.

The team behind Sunderland bid spent months trying to persuade judges that the city had what it takes to win.

It was hoped that they'd be wowed by the city's beautiful coastline and cultural assets, such as the National Glass Centre, the Empire, and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens - but it just wasn't to be.

Despite losing out to Coventry, Sunderland’s cultural leaders have vowed to push ahead with a programme of ‘major cultural activities’.

“Naturally, we are disappointed,” said Rebecca Ball, Sunderland 2021 director, “but also very proud....

We developed an exciting and compelling bid, shaped by hours of feedback from people from the city and beyond and we want to reassure people that all that hard work and valuable contributions will be used to shape our cultural future.

“Our bid really got to grips with what Sunderland is about now, and what people want it to be in the future.

"It was packed with ideas, thoroughly deserved to be on the shortlist and there is a huge amount of support and momentum to make many of them happen despite not winning the title.

“Our warmest congratulations go to Coventry – and commiserations to Stoke-on-Trent, Paisley and Swansea. It’s a brave thing to throw your hat in the ring and I am proud that Sunderland was among those that did.”

– Rebecca Ball, Sunderland 202, Director
Coventry is to become UK City of Culture 2021 Credit: ITV News

The Sunderland bid was backed by local and regional businesses, councils, MPs, Sunderland Football Club and local celebrities, including radio DJ Lauren Laverne, actress Melanie Hill and musician Ross Millard from the band, Futureheads.

The competition is held every four years, with Derry-Londonderry the first winner in 2013.

Despite the title, the award is not restricted only to cities, and Scottish representative Paisley is the first town to make the final shortlist.

People gathered at Pop Recs in Sunderland to hear the news. Credit: ITV News

Councillor Harry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, pointed out how other North East cities who have been unsuccessful in the competition in the past, had attracted huge investment regardless, and were able to introduce large-scale events and arts programmes into their cultural calendar:

Look at Durham, which was unsuccessful in its bid in 2013. Despite this, Lumiere was born out of the competition, an event that delivers a £9.6million boost for the city every two years and has cemented Durham’s place as a cultural tourist destination.

“Our other near neighbours NewcastleGateshead were also unsuccessful in their quest to win European Capital of Culture in 2008, and they’ve gone on to deliver huge cultural programmes since, next year hosting the Great Exhibition of the North.

“We were always very clear that this bid, win or lose, would deliver a lasting legacy for Sunderland. And it will – it has already brought increased investment and a higher profile to the city.”

– Councillor Harry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council