Skip to content


Penshaw Monumnet

A great change for all – Blog #42

I grew up in Sunderland before it became a city.

I was a 10-year- old pupil at Southwick Primary School when that honour was bestowed upon us.

It was also the year Sunderland AFC got to the FA Cup Final for the first time since 1973.

I remember we were allowed to wear red, white and black instead of our uniforms to celebrate – and the girls searched everywhere for corresponding hairslides and bobbles.

(I think Tammy Girl probably came up trumps.)

Even as a child, I recognised the buzz around the place and I think the Sunderland 2021 City of Culture bid has the potential to recreate that.

Both the city’s and the footballAngela Reed club’s fortunes have fluctuated since 1992, but overall I have watched Sunderland
grow as a city.

I may have moved up the coast to South Shields, but to me, Sunderland will always be home.

I have lived, studied and worked in the city and continue to spend a lot of time there.

The sight of Penshaw Monument still means I’m almost home, just like it did when I was little, sitting in the back of the car with my sister on the way back from a long trip.

Our most regular journey as a family was to Hull.

My mam is from the current City of Culture title holder, although she has now lived in Sunderland, where my dad grew up, for longer than she lived there.

We spent a lot of time going up and down the A19 to visit relatives, although I can’t remember getting to see much of the city. I think we made it to Wilberforce House once.

That’s about to change though, as my husband and I are planning a trip with our children later this year, to see what the city has to offer.

When it came to writing this blog, I thought I’d ask my aunties and uncles to share their thoughts on what the City of Culture 2017 title has meant to the city and to them.

One of my uncles said that Hull has suffered from a poor reputation in the past and although there had been a bit of an upturn thanks to Hull City AFC winning promotion to the Premier League and the opening of the new Siemens Blade Factory, “it has been the City of Culture success that seems to have galvanized the population into looking at the good things the city has to offer”.

He said people are visiting Hull from other parts of the country, attracted by the “impressive” events that have already been held and art installations like the 75m-long Blade sculpture in Queen Victoria Square.

“In short, the City of Culture success has woken up the people of Hull and enabled them to celebrate and be proud of its past and given it the confidence to look forward to a brighter and more exciting future,” he added.

One of my aunties said she and my uncle are not “arty types” but appreciate the efforts being made to revitalise the city centre and restore Ferens Art Gallery and Hull New Theatre. They also enjoyed the fireworks that kick-started the city’s year in the spotlight.

“There may be more that may interest us maybe later in the year,” she added.

I for one know they’ll love the Weeping Window poppy memorial when it goes on display at the end of March, as I saw it when it came to Woodhorn in Ashington in 2015.

When I visited Liverpool as it bid against Newcastle/Gateshead for the title of European Capital of Culture 2008, the thing that stuck with me from their ultimately successful campaign was the drive to get people to appreciate what they had on their doorsteps.

They were keen for Liverpudlians to become tourists in their own city and it’s something I have made a conscious effort to do myself ever since, particularly when it comes to taking the children out and about.

James, 7, and Sophie, 5, share my love of Penshaw Monument, Herrington Country Park, the National Glass Centre, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Roker Beach, Washington Wetland Centre and Washington Old Hall.

They’ve seen shows at Sunderland Empire Theatre and Washington Arts Centre, marvelled at the Sunderland International Airshow and are regulars at the Aquatic Centre, which boasts the largest swimming pool in the north east.Angela Reed 2

There are still plenty of places to explore and I’m busy adding them to the school holidays bucket list. We might be done by 2021! And James will be around the age I was when Sunderland was granted city status.

Culture plays a big part in my family life, but also in my work life.

I set up Creative Calligraphy almost three years ago, with support from the North East Business and Innovation Centre in Sunderland. Last year, I was invited to run calligraphy workshops for the Cultural Spring, a project funded by Arts Council England to improve access to the arts in certain areas of Sunderland and South Tyneside.

It has led to a number of exciting opportunities, as well as boosting my confidence, and I can see my business continue to grow because the area is so supportive of the arts and culture, a legacy which I
hope will stretch far beyond the Sunderland 2021 campaign.

–Angela Reed, Creative Calligraphy

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Back to News