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Friends and Supporters

Lord David Puttnam C.B.E., Film producer and director

As Chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1997 to 2007, and then in my role as visiting lecturer, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many young people who live and study in the city.

Talking with students who are working to build careers in the Creative Industries I’ve learned to admire their drive, their commitment and their passion.

For that reason, becoming UK City of Culture in 2021 would have a particularly powerful impact on Sunderland’s young people.

It would bring new opportunities, develop new skills and open new doors. I’ve seen Sunderland through the worst of times but, as with Leicester in football, the City, through its arts and cultural policies, has created a level of confidence and ambition that are all the hallmarks of future success. Sunderland is a city with a great heart and great spirit, forged through sheer hard work and determination. It’s earned its right to ‘a place in the sun’.


Lauren Laverne, BBC Presenter

Tracing Sunderland’s rich cultural history is an interesting job. It takes us from the saints and artist monks of St Peter’s, past Lowry and the ingenuity of the industrial age, to Lewis Caroll’s uncannily-named Wonderland to meet a Walrus and back home to a famous lion.

We make glass, pop music and cars and so inspired Grayson Perry he came back to the city twice to create works of art. It is a city full of tough, funny people with soft hearts. I’m proud to call it home, and of the culture I inherited growing up there.


Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

Sunderland's lively optimism and rich history deserve the UK City of Culture 2021 title so a jewel in the nation's crown sparkles well into the future. From shipbuilding and glass making to music and the theatre, the glorious creativity of Sunderland's people is harnessing culture in its broadest sense to regenerate the city and North East England for this century and beyond.

Ann Cleeves, Crime Writer

“Wearside used to export coal all over the world; now it makes brilliant art and exports that instead. We should celebrate the writers, film-makers, actors, artists and musicians who are based in the north east, and those who have left to spread the sense of this culturally vibrant place more widely. I whole-heartedly support Sunderland's bid to become 2021's UK City of Culture.”

Melanie Hill, Coronation Street actress

I am extremely proud to add my voice and support to the City of Culture Bid 2021. A long time ago , ( let's not put a number on it!) Sunderland Council gave me the opportunity to spread my wings and learn to act at RADA by giving me a grant. Since then my city has worked hard to provide first class facilities and opportunities for young people to learn and grow creatively without having to move away from the area. It is buzzing with such a young positive energy.

When I come back up ( usually to watch my beloved SAFC ) I am struck with a sense that something is CHANGING. Sunderland Uni is world class offering fantastic cutting edge facilities to study Drama and other Courses.

I love my City and I urge every Mackem out there to get behind this bid. We deserve it.

After losing our two main Industries of Coal and Ship building we have not been broken but supported each other and grown as a town through the energy and talent of our young people . I know if you are reading this .. You have something to offer. Get involved .


George Clarke, Award-winning architect and TV presenter

“We are seeing some fantastic regeneration projects in Sunderland that are really exciting for the city. The Old Fire Station plans are so exciting for Sunderland and it’s great to see the city making the most of the assets it has – stunning old buildings that can become cultural hubs.

City of Culture status would escalate and elevate the area’s transformation and bring a cultural boost able to regenerate the whole city and surrounding areas.

Wherever I live in the world, Sunderland is home to me and it always will be. I back Sunderland’s bid to become a City of Culture in 2021 because it’s exactly what my city needs.”

Gareth Pugh, Fashion Designer

Sunderland represents a singular and compelling combination of post-industrial grit and charisma. It's home to a history of storytelling, and a veritable cast of larger-than-life characters. Growing up here, it was all about family and football, our industrial history and world renowned handcraft. There's a reason that Lewis Carroll came here to write, or that LS Lowry came here to paint; it's a part of the world that constantly surprises.

Winning UK City of Culture 2021 would not only be a fair assessment, but also an opportunity to reframe this rich history against a contemporary backdrop. It would kick-start a period of redevelopment and would undoubtedly come as a huge encouragement to the city's next generation of emerging talent.


David Parfitt, Film Producer

Sunderland was where my cultural life started – watching friends and family at the Royalty Theatre, performances and films of every kind at the Empire – I would love to be able to share what made my cultural upbringing so rich.

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham

Sunderland is a remarkable city and is working hard to prove that it is worthy of the title, City of Culture 2021. There would be a really positive impact on the whole region if a city in the north east was acknowledged in this way for its culture and vibrancy.

Durham Cathedral is honoured to be the final resting place of the Venerable Bede and partly because of this we have always had close ties with Sunderland. Durham Cathedral is proud to support Sunderland’s bid for the City of Culture 2021.

Jimmy Montgomery, Former footballer and hero of the SAFC FA Cup winning squad of 1973

I think winning the City of Culture bid could be the greatest day in Sunderland since May 5, 1973. It would bring us the attention that our FA Cup win did all those years ago. Not just regional and national attention, but international headlines for all the right reasons.

This is a great place to live, work and play - a great place to learn and to visit, but not enough people are aware of what we have to offer. City of Culture status would change that. Visitors would come here and be overwhelmed by the reception of the city's greatest asset - its people.

One thing that folk do know about Sunderland is how passionate Wearsiders are. We are known worldwide as passionate supporters - I would love to see the passion for the club echoed in a passion to see this exciting opportunity fulfilled. I would urge all Wearsiders not just to wish the bid all the best, but to do something practical to support it.


Tom Mouse Smith, musician

By 2021 I will be 16 and would love the rest of the City and the U.K. to feel the pride I feel about Sunderland. Becoming City of Culture is so important because it encourages and gives reason to show everyone what a great place we live and what we can achieve.

Without places like Pop Recs, Sunderland Minster or Split Festival I wouldn't have been old enough to watch most local music. It's inspired me to want to become a musician, imagine if we could do more! Imagine if we could create more of The Futureheads, Hyde and Beast or Frankie & The Heartstrings. I so hope we win.


Katie Bulmer-Cooke, UK Personal Trainer of the Year 2012 & UK Fitness Professional of the Year 2013

I'm Sunderland through and through and having lived in our great city all of my life. I've seen it develop and grow into a fantastic city filled with opportunity and so many things to be proud of.

Winning City of Culture 2021 would be a big boost for the city's future, bringing jobs, investment and tourism and would really put Sunderland on the map, both in the UK and internationally too. 

We are a city of great people, great opportunity and great passion...all of which truly deserve to be recognised, celebrated and built upon.


Barry Hyde, Musician

I think the City of Culture bid is a superb thing for Sunderland. We have a glut of incredibly talented people in the city, from musicians, to performance artists, to drama groups, to filmmakers, and photographers.

This City of Culture bid is going to allow those different groups of artists to stand a much greater chance of being productive with their work and gaining success within their field. Now is Sunderland’s time.


Andy Dawson, writer and comic

Sunderland has always been a city of makers, most famously in industry, from coal mining and shipbuilding right through to car production. That creative spirit is alive in the city’s artistic culture as well, and hopefully we can play as hard as we work in 2021 after we win the bid.

Graeme Danby, Operatic Bass

Music and especially singing run hand in hand in the University and City of Sunderland. The benefits are both physical and psychological in their enhancement of your life - being a City of Culture will help to cement this relationship between feeling good about oneself and doing good for your home area

Bryan Talbot, Comic book artist

Sunderland is a city that embraces culture and creativity in all its forms.

For centuries, the most innovative, creative minds have been inspired by the city; from Venerable Bede to LS Lowry, Sunderland has ignited imaginations and unlocked the talent of some of the greatest thinkers and artists of all time.

I believe that Sunderland is now on the road to a cultural renaissance and is a place that has the ambition, vision, capacity and potential to be an internationally significant cultural destination.  Its past makes it unique and defines the place it is today – warm, hardworking and passionate; its present sees it as a city that faces challenges, but that it on the up; and its future – with City of Culture 2021 status - could well see Sunderland recapture its glory days, harnessing all the great assets it has, and showing its colours to the world.


Sir Peter Vardy, Businessman

I'm extremely proud of my roots - we have so much going for us in Sunderland and the wider north east region. Beautiful countryside and coastlines; bustling towns and cities; thriving companies maintaining growing local economies - and the most loyal, hardworking workforces in the country. I know this from personal experience, watching my own company grow from six to 6,000.

But in typical north eastern fashion, we don't shout about what we have. We're too modest, too self-deprecating.

Which is why the City of Culture Bid 2021 is so important for Wearside and the north east. It gives us a platform to celebrate our heritage, our achievements and who we are.

A successful bid would turn the spotlight on Sunderland for all of the right reasons, and raise our profile among the artistic and cultural sector - and also among the business and investment sector. It would be reminder of why so many companies choose to move here.

I applaud the ambition of those behind the bid, as too often in the past such opportunities have not been taken, and I give my wholehearted support to Sunderland becoming City of Culture 2021.


Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive at Destination Marketing agency

We’re delighted to support Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021. A successful bid would deliver a long term legacy for the city and the wider region – as well as delivering an exciting year of innovative cultural events that local people and visitors alike can experience and enjoy.

But the bid process in itself also provides a great opportunity. It was NewcastleGateshead’s unsuccessful bid for European Capital of Culture 2008 that attracted significant positive media coverage and provided the catalyst for an ambitious programme of cultural festivals and events – which took place nevertheless. In line with our experience, we very much hope that this bid provides a vehicle through which Sunderland can raise its profile as a cultural and creative destination and ultimately drive visitor numbers and wider economic growth for the city and the region. We wish them every success.


Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central

A successful bid would quite simply transform the image of the city and how we’re seen by outsiders looking in. Ask people outside of the north east what they know of Sunderland and they’ll talk of a northern industrial city that has known better times. They also may mention the football club and Nissan, but post-2021, Sunderland would be known around the world as a cultural city. It would have the reputation of a city with huge opportunities for artists and audiences; a city where artists and performers can thrive and find ample opportunities to grow.

The next generation would benefit hugely from a successful bid. The energy generated from a successful bid would help show young people that this city can be one of excitement; while the massive investment in the city would provide jobs and opportunities for years to come.

I want everyone to know just how special Sunderland is, and City of Culture status will do just that. Our city is a truly wonderful place for creativity. Our city is ambitious, brave and collaborative, and our bid is too! Winning UK City of Culture 2021 would bring so much to our city. It’s a cause that anyone who loves Sunderland should get behind and I urge everyone to do so.


Aly Dixon, Runner

From a kid growing up running the streets of Sunderland I made it to the greatest stage of world sport. I am extremely proud to come from and continue to live in Sunderland and to give my support to the City of Culture bid.

The City by the sea has a unique mixture of history, regeneration and innovation. Winning the bid will firmly place the City on the map as a place to live, work, study and visit.

I am excited for the future of the City

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West

I think it's very important for Sunderland to win the UK City of Culture 2021. Sunderland is a fantastic place to live, work and visit, and I suppose all of those are the reason we want it to be even better. It's already great but something like winning the City of Culture will just really put Sunderland on the map, and we know the other places in the country that have been City of Culture and how it's transformed them - currently we're seeing that with Hull - and there are so many great things that Sunderland already offers.

We are already on the map for the music scene, for instance, and we've got great heritage as well. We just need to spread the word, and winning something like City of Culture, that's what it does - it helps you to spread the word to the wider population, to people across the country, to come and visit Sunderland to come and see what there is to offer.

Everybody always thinks that it's about investment in industry and manufacturing but actually cultural investment can bring just as much of a transformation and I really believe that's what'll happen to Sunderland. The pride everyone will feel when they see the city transformed is just going to be phenomenal so I can't wait for it to happen.


Sir Bob Murray CBE, businessman and former chairman of Sunderland Football Club

I was born into the fourth generation of a Sunderland mining family and have always been hugely proud of my personal heritage, and that of my city.

Sunderland people are special – passionate and generous. I saw the passion first hand during my time as Chairman of Sunderland Football Club, and continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity of Wearsiders in my role as Chairman of Trustees at the Foundation of Light, the charity arm of SAFC.

I firmly believe a successful City of Culture bid would have a transformative effect on Sunderland. And it wouldn’t just act as a catalyst for the city’s growing cultural sector. The investment and higher profile would undoubtedly lead to jobs and greater opportunities for Wearsiders. I also believe that a successful bid would help encourage our young people to stay here, rather than look elsewhere to build their lives and futures.

One thing I learned through my team at the club and at the Foundation, is that Sunderland is about true partnerships. It can act as one coherent, determined body as the city did during the 2018 World Cup bid. This strength means that the whole city, from the council to businesses large and small, to everyone living and working on Wearside will pull together to back this bid.

I can think of no more worthy recipient of the title City of Culture 2021 than Sunderland.”


Councillor Iain Malcolm, Labour Leader of South Tyneside Council

From SAFC to the National Glass Centre, Field Music to The Old Fire Station, the Empire to the Sunderland Airshow, it has a wealth of venues, writers, film-makers, actors, artists, musicians, athletes and many more that make the city a thriving cultural centre. That kind of passion is not contained by borders – it bleeds across the entire North East.

Winning City of Culture would further inspire thousands of young people from across the entire region into careers in the arts. The bid has the potential to reap so many rewards – culturally, economically and educationally. Sharing a border with Sunderland is more than just geography. I see Sunderland City of Culture 2021 very much as a regional bid and one that will benefit the whole of the North East – and beyond.

Martin Longstaff, Musician (The Lake Poets)

Obviously as a creative person and resident of Sunderland I want to see my city on the map. I want to see more people being enthusiastic about what we can do and what we can achieve if we band together and get working.

We’ve had our ups and downs- but we keep going, we keep fighting, we keep creating, we keep moving forward, whilst also remembering our past. I think the next few years are going to be pivotal in defining us as a place to be.


Ray Spencer MBE, Executive Director of The Customs House

I’ve watched with interest and admiration as Sunderland has developed its arts and cultural sector with real purpose and energy. It’s now a city that values the importance of the sector and recognises the social and economic benefits that a vibrant, inclusive programme of arts activity can bring to a city.

Sunderland is a proud place – proud of its important heritage, proud to be a city by the sea and proud of its friendly people. But Sunderland is an unknown place for too many people. A successful bid would put Sunderland on the map.

So imagine how Wearsiders’ chests will swell with pride if named the City of Culture 2021. For so many more people will find out what the folk of Wearside have always known – that Sunderland is a special place.

I fully support Sunderland’s bid to be City of Culture 2021 and I urge you to do so too.


Dominic Wilcox, Inventor

"I was inspired to become an artist and inventor by a teacher at Sunderland University called Charlie Holmes. He showed me a book of strange and thought-provoking invention ideas and asked me to try to think up my own and I found I could do it.

I'd like to think that if Sunderland became City of Culture in 2021, hundreds - if not thousands - of young people would be inspired and encouraged into careers in the arts.

When I was growing up in the city I knew the local people had a particularly sharp wit. I believe humour and creativity are one in the same thing, the ability to see the unexpected in the everyday. I feel that there is therefore a natural creativity in the people of Sunderland waiting to flourish. Particularly when it is combined with the local mindset of making the very best of whatever lies in front of us. As an artist and designer that is exactly what I do, attempting to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary with the help of a Sunderland sense of humour and the hard work mentality that is in the dna of the people of this city."


The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham

I am delighted to add my support to Sunderland's bid to be the City of Culture in 2021. Sunderland has been a centre of culture and heritage for many centuries.

More than a thousand years ago, Benedict Biscop and then the Venerable Bede ensured Wearmouth (Sunderland) became one of the greatest centres of learning and culture in the world of their day. It was famed across Europe. Scholars and innovative craftsmen came from across the Continent to teach and learn. They were Christian leaders and as one of their successors I am pleased to continue their tradition and support recognition for Sunderland's contribution to culture and heritage in this 21st century.

The city is still famous for a spirit of welcome and warmth. Wearsiders are special people - hardworking, generous, friendly, good humoured and resilient.

Sunderland would be a worthy City of Culture. This accolade would give the city a golden opportunity to celebrate its proud heritage and exciting future through its growing arts and culture sector. But it would also give visitors the opportunity to experience the unique Wearside welcome.

I have no doubt Sunderland would be an unforgettable City of Culture in 2021 and the year would be embraced and fully supported by everyone in the city and indeed the wider north east.

I fully support Sunderland's 2021 City of Culture bid.


Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council

Durham’s bid to become City of Culture in 2013 has had a tremendous legacy for the whole county – one that is still felt today through our visitor attractions and an enhanced programme of festivals and events.

I am certain this can be an equally positive process for Sunderland – no matter what the final outcome may be.  Developing our bid became an impetus for a cultural renaissance in Durham and gave us the opportunity to reflect on what makes the city and county special and unique, and how we could maximise our natural and historical assets.

We all wish Sunderland the very best of luck as it develops its bid, and of course, hope it is able to win the title – not only for the city but for the whole region.  We’re right behind Sunderland 2021.



Friendship is about connectedness, trust, sharing, giving, celebrating, understanding, helping, togetherness, openness and much more that is the life blood for a cohesive, diverse and harmonious society. As a City of Culture, not only do we want to celebrate the diversity of this city, but also welcome the world to visit and add to its richness, thus keep the spirit of ‘friendship’ alive.

Sophie Lisa Beresford, Artist

Now is the time to illuminate the truth of Sunderland’s creativity, cultural identity and heritage. This City of Culture bid is not about us trying to stretch ourselves into becoming something or someone different to what we are, it is about us uncovering and illuminating the truth of who we are and always have been.

All we need is willingness from our people to engage themselves and to get to know their own creative brilliance (trust me it’s there). Agreed that at times we may be rough around the edges, but our rough is jam packed with diamonds and it’s time that we got to polishing our diamonds up.

Simon & Danni, Radio Presenters

All of us here at Sun FM are passionate about Sunderland and hugely excited by the possibility of us being the UK's City of Culture in 2021.

We've been shouting about how great the city is for many years now, but the City of Culture title would mean others joining with us to champion Sunderland.

We're proud to have been one of the bid's earliest backers and it has been really encouraging to see how support has grown so quickly over recent months.

We firmly believe that ... Together we can win this.


Kevin Ball, Former Footballer

Although I'm not from the city originally, Sunderland is now in my blood. Since first arriving here 25 years ago, I've seen many changes. There is a momentum building here, a feeling that after three challenging decades, a brighter future is possible.

Winning the 2021 City of Culture bid would be a catalyst for that future, bringing investment, jobs and change in the way Sunderland is seen nationally and internationally. It would transform the city.

It would also be a great way to celebrate the city - what it stands for, its assets and its people - and I'm delighted to offer my full support for the bid.


Frankie Francis, Musician (Frankie & the Heartstrings)

Sunderland has come along way but it could go a hell of a lot further, and this is why we are trying to do this City of Culture bid. It’s exciting what could happen, and Sunderland is the perfect place for it to happen. I’m really excited about the future of the city.

Richard Riddell, Actor

When I was accepted into both the National Youth Theatre and RADA I was astonished by the support I received from the people of Sunderland. We're a proud city and proud of our people. Winning the 2021 bid would be a great opportunity to support the next generations of performers coming through and also provide much to everyone else living in the city. We're proud of our history but recently have felt a little stagnant. This is something new to get behind and a chance to find some newfound pride in the city's development. Get behind 2021!

John Seager, Chief Executive of Siglion

There are many parallels to the work of Sunderland 2021. The City of Culture team is developing a bid that reflects on the city’s past – that understands how our heritage defines who the people of Sunderland are today – but also a bid that moves us on. We know that the city has faced decline, and we have seen many of the industries we held dear stripped away. We are and must remain very proud of what we once were, but the wave of change we are seeing is a chance to look ahead to what we can be.

And I believe that is a City of Culture 2021. A city that is rightly taking its place back in the spotlight, and is ready to shine a light all of its own, for all to see.

Margaret Fay CBE DL, Deputy Chair of The North Music Trust

I see this as very much a bid for the region. Sunderland would benefit hugely from a successful bid, but so would the whole of the north east.

It would put the region in the spotlight for all of the right reasons, attracting both visitors and investment. We should be rightly proud of our region's cultural assets and a successful bid would definitely increase visitor numbers. But it wouldn't just be the cultural sector that would benefit from Sunderland being City of Culture 2021 - we all would. Our economy would receive a real shot in the arm, and as a former Chair of One North East, I genuinely believe that the title would also help in terms of regeneration and transformation.

Through my role on the University of Sunderland's board, I'm well aware of the cultural renaissance gathering pace in the city at this time. My hope is that a successful bid would give this renaissance further impetus, and an amazing cultural programme in the city in 2021 would leave a deep and lasting legacy in terms of culture and confidence.


Matt Wylie, Swimmer

Sunderland as a city has supported me through my career as an athlete all the way to achieving my dream of becoming a Paralympic Champion. The city boasts the only full sized Olympic swimming pool in the area, the nearest one being Leeds after that. This is extremely useful to me and other aspiring athletes in the city.

David Brewis, Musician (Field Music)

The City of Culture bid is a great opportunity for Sunderland to make the most of the enthusiasm and cultural distinctiveness which we all feel here but which sometimes struggles to find a way out to the wider public. For me, it's not about forging a new cultural identity - it's about recognising all of the different strands of what is already here and giving them a chance to flourish.

Gary Hutchinson, Commercial Director SAFC

Winning City of Culture 2021 would be a huge shot in the arm for the Sunderland and regional economies. It's estimated that Hull's success will bring in an additional £60m of spending to the city and create 7,500 jobs - and on top of that there's the worldwide profile and a surge in city pride and confidence.

The city's cultural sector is currently enjoying an exciting resurgence which is gaining national recognition, but this would take Sunderland's cultural offer to another level

Sunderland Football Club is proud to support the bid and we will be working with city partners to do what we can to turn the dream into a reality. We would urge the club's supporters to back the city's 2021 bid.


Abraham Obinna, President of the Students Union

The City of Sunderland has a diverse community. However, continuing to disregard this cohesive, diverse culture will almost certainly prove to be detrimental, as we continue to strive for excellence in our community.
Furthermore, Sunderland appreciates and recognises the diversity of its community, a driving force towards winning the 2021 bid for the City of Culture

Sheila Webster, University of Sunderland

As a ‘Barbary Coaster’ I am very proud of my background and whilst I have had a number of opportunities to leave the area/country, this will always be my home and I have never felt compelled to leave. Working at the University on and off for almost twenty years I have seen, and enjoyed seeing Sunderland and it’s population become ever more culturally aware, diverse and vibrant.

Sadly, I have also witnessed acts of racism and negativity to changes within the City. I have a daughter who is 6 and I try and teach her that we’re all equal and all equally able to do anything we want to do in life, as well as to treat others with respect, care and dignity. The Culture Bid seems like a wonderful way to engage the City as a whole – and I would love to get involved in some way.


Emmie (16) and Lily Thompson (15), Young Achievers Award Winners 2015, Special Recognition award for Arts and Culture

Being a part of something that celebrates Art and Culture in our local area is a massive achievement for both of us.

The arts have impacted our lives in so many ways, like building our confidence, opening doors to new opportunities and inspiring us to keep on creating

Paul Collingwood MBE, Cricketer

As a proud North Easterner, I am one hundred per cent behind Sunderland’s bid to become City of Culture 2021.

The region has twice contested cultural competitions, and twice been unsuccessful, so it would be fantastic if this was a case of third time lucky. Sunderland is a fantastic city, and one that has the passionate people and natural assets to be even greater. It would be fantastic to see the spotlight fall on Wearside, if Sunderland is named City of Culture in 2021.

Dean Matthews, Taxi driver/photographer

As a taxi driver I class myself as someone who knows Sunderland well, and can often be the first person visitors meet when they come into the city. I would be delighted to see us becoming the City of Culture 2021.

Such a title would make me proud of the city, but would also bring in new visitors from across the region and beyond.

We have so much to offer, and people are always impressed once they've spent some time here - they're often surprised by the beauty of our coastline, for instance.

Nicola Redpath, Teacher

For our bid to be successful, it's important that it has the support of the whole city - from the youngest to the oldest residents.

Educating young people about our proud heritage and exciting future is a privilege for me, but it's also important that the next generation understand the importance of the bid. Its legacy could well transform their lives.