Annual festival helps create a vibrant leisure quarter

17 July 2018

The sun shone, England beat Sweden and a whole host of music greats gathered in Sunderland – just some of the many reasons to be cheerful at the weekend.

Sunniside Live kicked off in grand style and that, coupled with crowds out and about in the city centre watching the World Cup, are just some of the reasons businesses across Sunderland got a huge boost.

This is the fourth Sunniside Live event, which has grown from a fairly modest, one day music celebration in its first year with an audience of just a few thousand to a two day, fully fledged festival which attracted more than 8000 people at the weekend.

And as the event has grown, so have the businesses which have made Sunniside their home, turning the area into a vibrant leisure quarter.

Long established restaurants like Arabesque and Thai Bay sit side by side with new comers including the recently opened Manor Bar and The Looking Glass café bistro at Athenaeum Street, all adding to the appeal of the area.

Add into the mix The Church Door, which has literally just launched, and Libby May’s Speakeasy Bar and Cocktail Lounge and you’ve got an area offering an eclectic and excitingmix of places to eat and drink. Sunniside has certainly changed since the first event in 2015, which boasted it was Sunderland’s first city centre music festival.

On the line-up that year were local band Frankie and the Heartstrings and soul and Mowtown legend, Joe Harriett and it coincided with the opening of the event organisers new bar – Gin and Bear It in the heart of Sunniside.

Year two saw some more big names in the frame, with the event headlined by the Brand New Heavies, Smoove and Turrell and Shola Ama – attracting a crowd of around 4,000.

In 2017 – with Sunnside itself now truly buzzing with its food and bar offerings – organisers attracted heavyweights The Happy Mondays and M People’s Heather Small to the stage, again backed by an ever-growing crowd of music enthusiasts. And although Sunniside Live only takes up one weekend of the year, there’s no doubt at all that its impact has a lasting and positive affect on the area.

Sunniside Live organiser, Helen Davies,who also owns Bar Justice and Gin and Bear It at Sunniside, believe the event helps build the city’s profile.

“It really put Sunderland on the world map,” she said. “We had texts from people as far away as Italy and Australia who had seen us on the national news, enjoying the musicians and the football."

"For an independent event organised by local people it was great to see so many people enjoying it."

She also praised Sunderland BID for their help. "The BID has been a great supporter of Sunniside and we're very grateful to them for that." said Helen. 

Other business in this area also reported a great trading weekend. 

Harry Collinson, who owns The Looking Glass cafe bistro, revealed that he'd also been extremely busy. 

"We had our own event as well on the day and it was really busy," he said. 

"It's fantastic that it put a focus on the whole of Sunniside and we had customers who had never been in before, so it was a great opportunity to showcase what a brilliant part of the city this is."

Sharon Appeby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID said it was a very exciting time for the city.

"It's fantasic that Sunniside Live has grown from a modest start to attracting bigger names and a bigger audience," she said. 

"And the focus it puts on the Sunniside area can only be positive."

"More bars and restaurants are openeing in that part of the city and the festival showcases what's on offer to a wider audience which can only be good for everyone."