A group of organisations have come together to support creative industries in Sunderland through a new eighteen-month programme.
Unlock the City is led by Sunderland Culture, who will be working in partnership with the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), Digital Catapult North East, and Sunderland BME Network.
Together, they will deliver a comprehensive package of support including workshops, residentials, mentoring and one-to-one sessions, with the aim to increase confidence and facilitate a more diverse, sustainable and profitable creative sector within Sunderland.
The programme is funded by a Coastal Communities Fund grant of £325,000 and is part of a wider £820,000 investment in the city which will also see a redevelopment of Sunderland’s seafront. The grant is the result of a successful joint bid from Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Culture.
Keith Merrin, Chief Executive, Sunderland Culture, said: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the North East BIC, Digital Catapult North East, and Sunderland BME Network to collectively pool our organisational expertise and resources to help support our creative industries.
“We know that providing help in key areas such as business skills, digital development and bespoke mentoring will make a real difference to our creative graduates, start-ups and existing SMEs across the city and support the overall continued growth of Sunderland’s cultural sector”
Councillor John Kelly, Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to see this programme taking shape. It will provide a real boost for our creative industries and everyone who works in them, helping them to grow and thrive.”
As part of the programme, Digital Catapult North East, based at Sunderland Software City, will deliver a series of residentials for individual creative practitioners, creative businesses and venues in the city, introducing organisations to the digital sector and supporting them to implement digital development plans.
The North East BIC will lead a programme of business skills development sessions aimed at creative businesses in the city, and have appointed a Creative Business Advisor, Victoria Moodle, to deliver targeted support and guidance.
Sunderland BME network will offer bespoke mentoring and events to help growth and sustainability, as well as undertaking a mapping exercise to establish the volume and depth of the creative sector within the BME community.
Northern Powerhouse Minister, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said: “This Government is committed to levelling up opportunities for people across the Northern Powerhouse and along the Great British Coast.
“That’s why we are backing Sunderland with a total of £3.36 million from our Coastal Communities Fund. The creative industries are at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse economy and this latest £325,000 investment will help people develop the skills they need to get jobs and grow this important sector in the city.”
The Unlock the City programme builds on and enhances the work initiated by Sunderland Culture’s original Unlock programme, funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Great Place Programme.
The Coastal Communities Fund will enable Sunderland Culture to continue this work and further invest in developing a creative co-working space in the city for 2020.
The programme enhances the work already being delivered to support the creative industries in the city through the Business Development team at Sunderland City Council and the University of Sunderland’s Hope Street Exchange.