Artists and schoolchildren unite to give Roker seaside a makeover

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A seafront play area much loved by generations of Sunderland youngsters has been given a makeover – with the help of local schoolchildren.

With its distinctive curved walls and domed roof, local folklore has it that the play area at Marine Walk was originally designed to resemble a whale.

Now that legend has been brought to life with a mural designed with the help of year 5 children at St Benet’s RC Primary School in Roker who worked with mural artist ‘Creative Ginger’ on the project.

Taking the theme of ‘the seafront’, children were encouraged to think imaginatively and create new ideas and designs for the play area which were then translated into a professionally finished mural, complete with pirates and treasure.

The mural is one of the finishing touches to the City Council’s £50,000 makeover for the play area which has seen the installation of new play equipment, safety surfacing, a new entrance gate, repairs to the dome and landscaping. The play area also boasts its own ‘whispering wall’.

Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said: “The play area is a bit of a local landmark and it’s one of the things that people were particularly keen that we should retain when we asked them what improvements they would like to see to the seafront.

“Lots of people told us they had fond memories of playing there during family trips to the seaside when they were kids.

“I think the kids from St Benet’s have done a fantastic job working with Creative Ginger and they should be very proud of themselves. It’s really brought the play area back to life – and now it’s painted up it really does look like it was always supposed to look like whale.”

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Teacher Hannah Austin, whose Year 5 class helped design the mural, said: “The children had a fantastic time, they really enjoyed working with the artists from Creative Ginger and they’re incredibly proud that their artwork was the inspiration for a design that everyone will see when they visit the seaside for years to come.”

Creative Ginger mural Artist Andy Morley, who worked with colleagues Barry McNab and John Dyer, on the project, added: “It was great fun working with the pupils from St Benet’s and getting their ideas for the mural and then translating their drawings and ideas into the finished artwork.

“We’ve also had some really positive comments from local people, it really seems to have really hit a chord with them.”

The story of how the mural was created is going on show in the Drawing Room of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art on the 3rd floor of the City Library from the week beginning 21st July.

This will include the children’s designs and a stop motion movie captured by videographer Lewis Hanlon, which will condense the nine day project into a 10 minute video showing how the mural was created from start to finish.

Once this is complete it will feature on Creative Ginger’s youtube page and on sunderland.gov.uk.

The work on the Marine Walk play area is the latest phase of improvements to the seafront at Roker and Seaburn which just last month won an excellence in planning and design for the public realm award from the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Work is also underway to completely resurface the grade II listed Roker Pier for the first time in its 111 year history as part of a £1.35m restoration project for the pier.#####

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