Sunderland's bid for UK City of Culture 2021 has been submitted!

We are delighted to let you all know that we have just submitted our first stage bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped and supported the development of Sunderland's bid. This has been a proper city-wide effort!

At 11am today, Friday 28 April, Sunderland submitted its bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.

The bid was submitted to the Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and will be considered along with 11 cities that are bidding for the title.

The bid has been written by a team from the University of Sunderland, the MAC Trust and the City Council, with lots of help and support from everyone across the city to make the best bid for Sunderland.

We will find out at the end of June 2017 if Sunderland will be one of the four cities on the shortlist who will be invited to put in a more detailed second stage bid. The winner will be announced at the end of the year.

Rebecca Ball, director of Sunderland 2021, said: “This is a hugely significant moment and something that many, many people across the city and the North East have been working towards for months. 

“We have had fantastic expressions of support. There is a real sense of passion, enthusiasm and optimism as we submit this bid. It’s a really exciting occasion and we are all keeping everything crossed that the judges shortlist our fantastic city.”

Representatives from the Music Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, Sunderland City Council and the University of Sunderland – the founding partners of Sunderland Culture, which is responsible for Sunderland 2021’s bid – were also on hand to push the button on the final submission, which has been worked on since DCMS released its all-important guidance on January 12. 

Shirley Atkinson, the University of Sunderland’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “We are very proud to be playing a lead role in Sunderland’s increasingly vibrant and creative culture, which is engaging audiences, bringing together communities and enriching lives. Our City of Culture bid is a tremendous opportunity to share the ingenuity, enthusiasm and determination of our city and its people with an even greater audience.”

Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “There has been a real momentum building in Sunderland, and a real sense that this is our time to shine. We wholeheartedly believe that we can offer something special in 2021 if we are successful in this bid, and we eagerly await the decision of the judges, when we learn whether we are among the shortlisted places to make it to the next stage.” 

Leaders are keen to point out that there will be a strong legacy from the process of bidding for City of Culture status, whatever the outcome.

Paul Callaghan, our University's Chair of Governors, has been a driving force behind the bid, he said: “Being part of this competition has created an opportunity for us to unite the city and wider region.

“Leaders of councils across the region have backed us, people have pledged their support, and many, many businesses have gone a step further and put their hand in their pocket.

“Make no mistake, whether we make it to the next stage or not, Sunderland has the wind in its sails right now and we will use the momentum we have gained and the financial backing we have leveraged to create a step change in the cultural offer in this city. We are keeping our fingers crossed though – we sincerely hope we have done enough to make the shortlist – it would be such well-deserved recognition for Sunderland.”

As Sunderland's bid went in there was an avalanche of support for the city on social media channels, from across the North East region and beyond, with people sharing the message Ha'way #Sunderland2021 #UKCityofCulture2021 @DCMS 

You can still show your support by liking it on Facebook, following on Twitter and Instagram and using #Sunderland2021 to share reasons why you think Sunderland show be the next UK City of Culture in 2021.


Sunderland has a unique energy and ambition which makes this the perfect opportunity to bid to be UK City of Culture. From the new bridge, to the Vaux site; from the regeneration of the seafront to the redevelopment of buildings like the old Fire Station, the city is undergoing unprecedented change. Building on this momentum, as well as world class cultural assets like the Empire and the National Glass Centre, there’s never been a better time for Sunderland to win.

The UK City of Culture bid is an opportunity for Sunderland to establish itself as a national centre for arts, heritage and culture. A successful UK City of Culture bid would put the city firmly into the cultural spotlight, attracting millions of pounds into the local economy through investment in the arts and an increase in visitors and jobs. It would kick-start a four year period of growth, innovation and creativity and culminate in a year of exciting cultural and artistic events.

Find out more here...