SAINT Nick is getting behind Sunderland’s bid to become City of Culture 2021, after delivering a special message of support from his grotto in the Bridges Shopping Centre. 


Santa, who has taken his place along with Mrs Claus and a number of elves in the shopping centre for the duration of the festive season, has added his name to a growing list of high profile people who are getting behind the bid, which could see Sunderland land the prestigious title that will attract significant investment to the city.  

The jolly public figure, who hails from the North Pole, has thrown his considerable weight behind the campaign, and hopes Sunderland can seal the deal when judges chose the winner at the end of next year. 

“Sunderland is a special place, and somewhere I always look forward to visiting when I am doing the rounds on Christmas Eve.  I even wear red and white in honour of my love for the place,” he said.

“If everyone in Sunderland wishes with all their might for Sunderland to win the City of Culture title, then there is no reason why it can’t happen.  I for one will be adding my name to the list of supporters and I will be watching on with interest from my workshop in the North Pole when the judges make their decision as to who is shortlisted in the spring, and of course, who wins in the autumn.”

Other high profile supporters include Melanie Hill, George Clarke and Lauren Laverne.

Sunderland 2021 – which is spearheading Sunderland’s effort to be awarded the title of City of Culture 2021 – is headed up by Rebecca Ball.

Rebecca said: “It’s fantastic to have the backing of Mr Claus.  Naturally, we think that Sunderland deserves this title, but to have the support of someone as well travelled and as learned as Santa really does prove just how special Sunderland is, and we hope that – in getting behind our city – he draws attention to all we have to offer.

The City of Culture contest is fiercely competitive, and towns and cities across the country compete for the title.  2017 winner Hull is set to see the national spotlight fall on it next year.  It was awarded the title in 2014 and will welcome a multi-million-pound injection of cultural events, shows, exhibitions, gigs, concerts, festivals, artist residences and outreach activities.  

The benefits of winning the title go beyond the initial year’s programme.  It is estimated that winning the status will deliver a £60m economic boost to the Hull, creating jobs and tourism opportunities throughout the East Riding.  Projections indicate some 1,200 jobs could be created in tourism and culture, that it will bring about a 20 per cent growth in creative industries and that around seven million visitors could contribute to the £184m expected to be pumped into the local economy.  

To find out more about the bid and what it could mean for Sunderland, visit, and take part in the conversation on social media by including #sunderland2021 in your posts. 

Anyone wishing to visit Santa in the Bridges will find him in his grotto from November 17 until Christmas Eve.  Entry to the grotto is £1.50, with 50p going to Rotary SR1, a city centre Rotary Club dedicating to help raise money for local causes.