Sunderland Rallies for City of Culture Bid Launch

A PACKED programme of music performed exclusively by Wearsiders will play a central part in the launch weekend of Sunderland’s bid to become the UK’s City of Culture 2021.

The city has announced plans for a two-day programme, from Friday September 18 to Sunday September 20, to officially launch the process of Sunderland bidding for UK City of Culture status. A consortium of committed city organisations will develop Sunderland’s bid for the City of Culture title, including the Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, (the organisation that has led on the planning of the launch event), the University of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council.

The launch event on the Friday evening, based around Keel Square, will see a bumper line up including music from the monster hit Shrek The Musical ahead of its much anticipated visit to the Sunderland Empire this November, Gen Factor finalists SK Dance and Sophie Ann Robson, a newly commissioned piece from Theatre Space NE, local bands including Frankie and the Heartstrings, a City of Culture film and the launch of All We Are Saying in Sunderland Minster.

The launch weekend will include also the Sunderland Soundscape music festival, packed with home-grown talent, for Saturday, September 19. A wide variety of musical acts will perform in eight different locations – from Keel Square to the more intimate surroundings of the Indigo Rooms and The Dun Cow.

Paul Callaghan of the MAC Trustsaid: “The city has long been known for its dynamic and vibrant independent music scene, and I’m sure music will play an important part in our bid. So it’s right that Soundscape will showcase the city’s musical talent as a reminder of just how good we are. Soundscape will have a wide variety of musical genres – there really will be something for everyone, no matter what sort of music you enjoy.

He added: “We think we can win City of Culture status, but at the same time recognise that just being part of the process is something that will deliver huge benefits to Sunderland. Cities that throw their hat into the ring benefit immensely, and the launch weekend aims to open everyone’s eyes to just what Sunderland was, is and is aiming to become. We hope as many people as possible will attend Soundscape gigs on the Saturday – and all of the launch weekend events, not just to enjoy some great performances, but to demonstrate how the city is right behind the bid.”

Soundscape starts on Saturday 19 at noon and includes the following:
• Keel Square – The Lake Poets; The Pottinsons; Keith Gregson and local school choirs; George Shovlin and the Radars; Olivia Lawson; Cohesion; Paul Liddell
• The Corner Flag – Ashes of Iron; 27 Side Effects; Witch Charmer; Pussy Willow Furry Venus; Lava Frog
• Indigo Rooms – Crease; Profumo; Dean James; Chased by Badguys and Vito
• Bar Justice – This Little Bird; Ani Sandwith; Kimberley Olsen-Brown
• Independent – Nano Kino; Battalion; Blush; Alba Nights
• Holmeside Coffee – The Gathering singer/songwriter night
• The Dun Cow – Sunderland Blues Club

All of the gigs are free, but venues will be operating a ‘pay what you want’ policy to help support the costs of providing the entertainment.

The City of Culture 2021 bid launch event marks the start of the process of Sunderland compiling its bid to be crowned in the contest, which runs every four years. The UK City of Culture programme was developed by the UK Government to build on the success of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture 2008, by creating a national cultural event spread over a year that draws the eyes of the nation on to one particular city or area. The 2017 winner was announced as Hull, with the winning city is able to use the title as a chance to spell out their vision for their city and how they will use it in making a step change in their area and creating a lasting legacy.

For more information about the City of Culture 2021 Bid, visit or follow @Sunderland2021 on Twitter.

Launch Poster and Invite