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£1.25m funding boost for Sunderland's cultural venues

From left, Rebecca Ball, Helen Connify, Keith Merrin, Trina Murphy, Mark Adamson. Photo: Sunderland Culture

A company set up to manage and develop Sunderland’s cultural venues celebrates a £1.25m boost in funding.

The grant from The Great Place Scheme is a huge early success for Sunderland Culture, the new company set up to run major city attractions and venues.

Sunderland Culture’s Chief Executive Keith Merrin was thrilled at the news:

To have such significant success in attracting new investment to Sunderland just weeks after being formed is hugely satisfying and encouraging.

It says a great deal about the faith and trust that the scheme’s partners already have in us that they’ve chosen us to help pilot a major new national project.

The funding is great news for Sunderland Culture, but also great news for the people of the city.”

– Keith Merrin
The mouth of the River Wear Credit: PA

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson, added:

I am delighted that Sunderland has been awarded this funding.

It demonstrates that the vision and investment of the city council with our partners University of Sunderland and the MAC Trust in setting up Sunderland Culture is paying off in bringing new investment to the city and new opportunities for our communities.

It also lays the foundations for our ambition for Sunderland to be City of Culture in 2021.”

– Councillor Paul Watson

As well as managing and operating venues in the city, Sunderland Culture will deliver large-scale projects like the current bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021, The Great Place Scheme, and also raise the profile of the city’s arts provision.

The announcement comes weeks after £6m of funding was secured for the building of a new £8.2m auditorium adjacent to the £3.6m redevelopment of the Fire Station.

Sunderland was awarded one of only ten Heritage Action Zones by Historic England to bring Old Sunderland and the area around Fawcett Street and High Street back to life.

Other major recent cultural investments into the city have included the redevelopments of Hylton Castle and Roker Lighthouse, and the Cultural Spring arts programme.

Keith from Sunderland Culture explained how the new funds will be used in Sunderland:

The £1.25m investment will deliver real impact in areas across the whole city working in partnership with communities and local organisations on initiatives to boost the creative economy, health and well being, community cohesion and opportunities for young people.

The process of bidding for UK City of Culture in 2021 has been invaluable and helped us to define key opportunities where culture can make a real difference to the lives of people in this city.

Great Place has given us a stepping stone to achieve this between now and 2021.”

– Keith Merrin, Sunderland Culture

Rebecca Ball, Project Director for Sunderland’s 2021 bid, said:

This is such wonderful news and keeps the momentum building.

It’s further evidence of Sunderland’s cultural renaissance and there’s a ‘living legacy’ that is developing even before we’ve submitted our first-round bid.

We have an ambitious ten-year vision and successes such as this help us create that vision, but also give us the confidence to continually aim higher."

– Rebecca Ball, Project Director for Sunderland’s 2021 bid