Sunderland Art and Culture

The Sunderland district was established in 1973 as The Metropolitan Borough of Sunderland and was granted city status in 1991 on the 40th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession. The city has a rich art and literature history, and a thriving music and theatre scene.

Art and Literature in Sunderland

Painter L. S. Lowry, born in Salford, was a regular visitor to Sunderland and often stayed in the Seaborn Hotel. Many of his shipbuilding and seascapes were inspired by Wearside.

The city is home to a number of galleries where visitors can appreciate works from both local and established artists. The Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art display exhibitions from well-established and up-and-coming artists. Visitors will find a vast collection of Lowry’s works in local galleries.

The National Glass Centre also has an impressive collection of glass sculptures.

Famed author Lewis Carroll was also a regular visitor to Sunderland, and wrote much of Jabberwocky while in Whitburn.

Backhouse Park and Hylton Castle are also believed to be the inspiration for his Alice in Wonderland stories. The Whitburn library houses a statue of Carroll.

Carroll’s connection to Sunderland is explored in Bryan Talbot’s novel Alice in Sunderland.

Teary Deary, born in Sunderland, wrote the Horrible Histories series. Sheila Quigley, another local author, is also finding success.

Writer Dan W. Griffin attended Sunderland University from 1991 to 1995.

Other well-known artists and writers from Sunderland include: Marian Angus (poet), James Herriot (author), Terry Deary (author), Clarkson Stanfield (painter) and Tom Talyor (playwright).

The Local Music Scene

Sunderland has also produced a fair number of successful musicians, including Dave Stewart of the Eurhythmics and Lauren Laverne of Kenickie.

More recently, Sunderland has been known for its underground music scene, with acts like The Futureheads, Smalltown Heroes, Franke & The Heartstrings, and Field Music.

Other musicians from Sunderland include Leatherface, The Toy Dolls, Ruth Ann Boyle, Olive, a Tribe of Toffs, Jezz Lowe, Alan price, Emeli Sande, Eve Gallagher, George Bellamy, Eric Boswell, Baz Warne and Alex Kapranos.

In 2005, the city hosted BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend concert, the largest free music festival in the United Kingdom. The event, which was held in Herrington County Park, attracted 30,000 visitors and featured acts like Kasabian, Foo Fighters, KT Tunstall, The Black Eyed Peas and the Chemical Brothers.

The Stadium of Light has been hosting major concerts since 2009, such as Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Take That

Theatre Shows

Sunderland is also home to great theatres, including the Sunderland Empire Theatre, which opened in 1907. The theatre is the largest in North East England and now hosts West End productions, like Starlight Express, Miss Saigon and My Fair Lady.

The Sunderland Empire Theatre is the only venue between Sunderland and Glasgow that can accommodate such large productions.

The theatre has also hosted an annual season from the Birmingham Royal Ballet for more than a decade.

Comic actor Sid James gave his last performance at the Empire Theatre, where he died of a heart attack on stage in 1976.

The city’s other major theatre is the Royalty Theatre, which is the home of the Royal Theatre group. The amateur company puts on low-budget productions throughout the year.

Sunderland was also the birthplace of many actors and actresses, including: Maurice Roeves, GIna McKee, Alison Wright, James Bolam, James Baxter, Alan Browning, Melanie Hill, Russell Enoch, Christine Norden, Gibb McLaughlin, David Parfitt (film producer) and William Lindon-Travers.

Sport in Sunderland

Sunderland has just one professional sporting team: Sunderland A.F.C. The football team was formed in 1879, and plays its home games at the Stadium of Light.

The city is also home to the top women’s football team in the North East: Sunderland A.F.C. Women. The team plays in the top tier of the FA Women’s Premier League National Division.

Sunderland has one non-league football team: Sunderland Ryhope Community Association F.C., which plays in the Northern League Division One.

Two MMA fighters, Ian “The Machine” Freeman and Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson, are both from Sunderland.

Several well-known sport figures hail from Sunderland, including Ryan Noble, Tony Jeffries, Jill Scott, Stephanie Houghton, Alan Ball, Ralph Coates and Nigel Clough.

Local Dialect

Sunderland’s Spackem accent is often confused with Geordie by people who are not from the area. The two are sound identical in diction and pronunciation.

The local dialect changes depending on where you are in the city.

Twin Cities

Sunderland’s twin cities include: Essen, Germany; Doncaster, UK; Saint-Nazaire, France. The city also has a Friendship Agreement with Harbin and Nanjing in China and Washington, DC, US.

Washington, DC and Sunderland share historical ties. The ancestors of George Washington, the first President of the United States, were from Sunderland and lived in Washington Old Hall.