Sunderland has been highlighted as a ‘poster child’ for culture-led regeneration at the launch of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group.
MPs and cultural leaders from across the North of England heard how the city is reinventing its cultural landscape with an innovative partnership between the council, a charitable trust and the University.
The new parliamentary group on Northern Culture aims to lobby and campaign for more recognition and resource for arts and culture across the North of England.
Graeme Thompson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland and a member of Arts Council England’s area council for the North, said collaboration and partnership was an effective way to maximise impact.
He highlighted Sunderland’s success in transforming its cultural landscape through partnership working between the city council, the Music Arts and Culture Trust and the University.
It comes on the day that Sunderland’s MAC Trust was awarded £1.38million from the Capital Kickstart programme – part of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It will enable the new Fire Station auditorium opening in June next year to also have a secure, socially distanced outdoor performance area.
Graeme said: “In terms of what we can do better to attract resource and showcase what we have here in the North, I think more partnership working is one answer.
“In Sunderland, the university has partnered the city council and a privately run trust which is developing the cultural quarter. We’ve formed a company – Sunderland Culture – to have a more joined up approach to programming venues and to build and encourage more creative and cultural capacity in the city. Partnership work isn’t always easy, but when you get it right, it multiplies impact.”
Graeme said the North had benefited from a significant slice from the £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund. But there is more to be done in ‘levelling up’ resources into the North.
He added: “Arts Council and DCMS deserve credit for investing millions in support for theatres, museums, galleries, libraries and other arts organisations to help keep their heads above water during the pandemic.
“It’s obviously never enough and we all know there have been casualties – 55 thousand creative professionals have lost their jobs since March according to a report yesterday by The Centre for Cultural Value. But we must also acknowledge that many more jobs have been saved alongside so many of our most cherished venues and organisations.”
In the immediate term, the group – co-chaired by the Labour MP for Sunderland Central Julie Elliott – will focus on the current crisis and building back support for, and investment in, the North’s cultural sector.
The proposed Terms of Reference of the Northern Culture APPG are to:
• Provide a united voice on pan-Northern culture asks and priorities in order to shape and influence future Government decision making
• Generate debate on how to boost skills, create equal opportunities for all, promote diversity and support ambitions to empower future generations
• Level-up investment in Northern culture to empower future generations
• Maximise the power of Northern culture to promote a strong and cohesive brand for the North; building recognition of its world-class reputation
Graeme added: “This is a very timely coming together of MPs and cultural leaders from across the North. We know this sector has been affected more than most by the pandemic. And the all-party group can be very effective in shaping future policy and direction to ensure this part of the UK can rebuild and expand its cultural provision.”