Sunderland narrowly lost out on its chance to become the UK’s third City of Culture 2021 – beaten to the finish line by Coventry.
A sigh of disappointment as we received the news – at a live stream in Pop Recs – as hundreds of hours of dedication from locals, organisations, MPs and the council led to what should have been a devastating defeat.
Yet Sunderland wasn’t acting like that, in true Mackem fashion, members of the crowd shouted ‘it doesn’t end here!’ As cheers of congratulations were heard for Coventry. It seems the city is still in good spirit.
But it’s still an expensive blow for the Sunderland, who Pixie Lott endorsed for the title, they’ve now lost the projected 1.6m visitors the bid was predicted to attract as well as the estimated £107m it cost to enter.
Closing the live-stream event at Pop Recs, John Mowbray, MAC Trust board member, passionately declared that the city won’t be deterred: “There’s a great team of people that will keep things going.
“So well done to Coventry we shall give them all the support they need but Sunderland is going to keep on going and there’s some amazing things that are happening already and there’s still more amazing things to happen, so don’t give up just keep on at it.”
Speaking to SRNews he said the loss was disappointing: “There’s a lot of hard work gone in by a lot of people. There is an entire city and actually an entire region behind it.
“But well done to Coventry they must have put in a very good bid, because our bid was fantastic, theirs must have been very special but we’ve got a momentum going here and we’ll just keep going.”
When asking about trying for 2025 he said it’s too early to say: “We’ll have to get feedback from the DCMS and the judges as to why we didn’t get it this time.
“We’ll have a little bit of a think about it and if it’s worth going through the pain again.”
Sunderland city, Labour, MP Julie Elliot said she was very disappointed with the decision but the build up has been empowering for the city: “We thought we were in for a very strong chance but the momentum is there and what has started to happen in Sunderland culturally isn’t going to go away.
“We have to wait to get the feedback… but it was Hull’s second bid when they won it so I’m not saying no but I’m not saying yes.”
Local musician Ross Millard of Frankie and the Heartstrings, and former singer and guitarist of the Futureheads, was frustrated with the result after the passionate effort of the city but he says the Mackem sensibility will always hold fast:
“It’s impossible to not feel a little bit deflated especially in the moment but I think that the spirit of the city is such that you always know there’s the chance of something going against you.
“I think the important thing now is sort of acknowledging that we’ve built up a lot of momentum and a big spirit in the place, and we’ve got a duty now to do some good stuff regardless.
“You know you’ve got to still make the moment.”
Ian Rowan of Holmeside writers and creative director of Sunderland’s Festival of Creative Writing, said that although the loss was discouraging there’s an atmosphere in the city that won’t be extinguished soon:
“I think everybody feels that there’s so much else we can do and this won’t stop any of that. There’s a lot of great things underway.
“There’s a spark relight in the city around culture and tonight makes no difference to that we’re still going to go on and do many of the amazing things we had planned, because this is Sunderland, so why not?”
Twitter also reflected the atmosphere in Pop Recs. Wearside won’t give up, there’s been a lot achieved, there’s a lot more to offer and there’s a lot more pride in the city.
Some were beaming with it:
Devastated that #Sunderland2021 has lost #UKCityofCulture2021 but we’ll move on from this! We always do & we carry on being amazing. This campaign has made me so proud to be from Sunderland, @Sunderland2021 thank you for highlighting how great this place is & all your hard work!
— Alice Fairweather ✨ (@zestofalice) December 7, 2017
Some were baffled, after all what a great place to study and live in – culturally:
— Tracey Ainsley (@ThunderbirdWPC) December 7, 2017
Some estranged Mackems were even getting nostalgic:
Gutted for my hometown Sunderland #UKCityofCulture2021 still the best town, best people and best coast anywhere!
— janieb (@jasijaka) December 7, 2017
But others were already over it and wanted to show everyone what they were missing:
Right then, it’s full throttle for the Tall Ships Race 2018 then! Let’s show the whole world why Sunderland deserved the #CityofCulture2021 title. we’ll put on the best event with the best people! Bring it on!#wearonboard #WelcometoSunderland #UKCityofCulture2021 #Sunderland2021
— NaomiAlexandraAustin (@naomiaustin) December 7, 2017
Sure the @Sunderland2021 bid was unsuccessful, yet there’s still a canny aura of pride in our recently regenerated city.
We might love it but what do you think about Sunderland?