An ambitious bid has been launched to establish a new flagship cultural attraction in Sunderland, following a call out to LEPs across the north of England from the £15m Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.
The Wearside-based ‘National Centre for Imagination’ (NCI) was chosen from a strong pool of funding bids that came through to the North East LEP and aims to focus on young people’s creativity and imagination.
Andrew Hodgson, chair of the North East LEP, said: “We received a very impressive set of bids to put forward for potential funding from the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.
“The entries we received clearly demonstrated the scale and ambition of emerging cultural projects right across the North East. The National Centre for Imagination particularly demonstrated a strong fit with the criteria set out by DCMS to create a lasting legacy of cultural regeneration.”
The two key goals of the fund are to encourage sustainable cultural and creative regeneration in the North of England, and benefit areas that have historically had low levels of cultural and creative investment.
Keith Merrin, chief executive of Sunderland Culture, the organisation behind the proposal and Sunderland’s bid to become City of Culture 2021, said: “If we are successful in securing this funding, the National Centre for Imagination will be the headquarters of Inventors, the globally-successful programme devised by Sunderland-born artist, designer and inventor Dominic Wilcox. The NCI will also be home to DigiLab, where children and young people will have the opportunity to use emerging digital technologies to learn new skills and develop their ideas.”
Plans include a provision for the upper floor of the NCI to be devoted to the University of Sunderland’s performing and creative arts provision, with the university working with leading practitioners and providers in the region.
Keith said: “Having a stimulating, inspirational learning and development space for a range of cultural disciplines on the upper floor will help cement Sunderland’s place on the national, as well as regional, cultural map.
“It’s another stepping stone in raising the profile and image of the city’s overall cultural offer and further making the case for Sunderland to be UK City of Culture in 2021.”
Sunderland’s bid for £3m towards the £5m cost of the building is now in competition against ten other towns and cities bidding for part of the NCRF pot. It is understood up to four projects will be successful in their bids, with a decision due in March next year.
Sunderland will find out this Thursday (December 7)whether it will be City of Culture 2021, when Arts and Culture Minister John Glen MP will announce the decision live on BBC One’s The One Show. The other shortlisted cities are Swansea, Coventry, Stoke and Paisley.