A bold plan to attract artists, writers and musicians to the streets of Sunderland and South Tyneside has won £2m from the Arts Council.
The three year project – The Cultural Spring – will see communities working with local, national and international artists and producers on a series of transformational arts events.
The scheme is being led by the University of Sunderland in partnership with The Customs House in South Shields and the newly formed Music and Culture Trust (MAC) in Sunderland. The consortium, which is backed by South Tyneside and Sunderland Councils, has the support of a host of arts organisations such as Live Theatre, Sage Gateshead, the Royal Shakespeare Company and internationally renowned choregrapher Wayne McGregor. Ambassadors for the project include film producer Lord David Puttnam and Barry Hyde – lead singer of The Futureheads.
The project was successful in its application to Arts Council’s Creative People and Places scheme, designed to empower communities to take the lead in shaping local arts provision. Overall 11 consortium applications were successful and have been awarded a total of just over £18million over the next three years, of which £2million will be going towards this initiative.
One of the key themes of The Cultural Spring is to produce new work on post-war housing estates where many of the streets are named after great artists and writers of the past. In South Shields, residents of Dickens Avenue, Orwell Close and Rodin Avenue will work alongside households in Shakespeare Street, Joyce Terrace and Byron Road in Sunderland. The project aims to help communities re-connect with the famous names of their addresses.
Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts, Design and Media at the University of Sunderland, said: “Our university has a great tradition of working with the biggest names in the arts and the creative industries. We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this funding from the Arts Council’s innovative ‘Creative People and Places’ scheme.
“We now look forward to working with arts professionals and local people to create a series of outstanding events and projects. The university will carry out research on the project to assess the impact of introducing great art to communities previously excluded as a result of economics or geography.”
Paul Callaghan CBE, from the MAC Trust, commented: “This is brilliant news and a massive coup for this corner of the North East. It will enable neighbouring communities in Sunderland and South Tyneside to experience a renaissance, a Cultural Spring, ignited by this funding. We will combine the best local art and culture with new experiences from world-leading organisations such as Wildworks and the BBC. Lives will be changed and neighbourhoods enriched for generations.”
Ray Spencer MBE, Executive Director of The Customs House, added: “We will be putting together an amazing team and a world-class programme of events. I feel honoured and excited at the prospect of being part of something which promises to be transformational for so many people in our area.”
Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, Arts Council England, said: “The Cultural Spring project will be a real asset to Sunderland and South Tyneside, and I am so pleased to see the project partners have secured investment from our Creative people and places scheme.
“The passion and commitment put behind the planned events, performances, galleries and projects as part of The Cultural Spring will bring a renaissance to arts and culture in the area. Planned collaborations with artists such as Barry Hyde of The Futureheads will also help develop and champion the fresh talent and creativity unique to Sunderland and South Tyneside.”
The group will work over the next six months with the Arts Council and other partners to finalise the business plan and programme schedule. It is also likely they will appoint an artistic director and project manager to work with local communities to commission the activities.