With a little help from my friends…

In an alternate universe right now, we would be going to gigs and filling our boots with the live music with which our city usually thrums. At least we can feel those vibes by visiting our brilliant new online exhibition, Paint the Town in Sound, which explores the timeless relationship between art and music, taking Sunderland-based band Field Music’s own collaborations as a starting point to explore wider trends.

But first, take a few moments to enjoy this blog post by one of our Unlock Creative Development Fellows (and first international correspondent!), Rhys Patterson, who writes from Berlin about the Sunderland collaborations that have supported his own artistic development in music.


Hey! My name is Rhys and I grew up in Sunderland. My practice centres around music, with me developing a wider interest in visual art in the last two years.

Photograph of a man playing a guitar while sitting on a stool, in a dark interior, lit by blue light

I started playing guitar at a young age and much later, after gaining the confidence to do so from volunteering at Pop Recs and meeting other local creatives, singing and playing piano.

From my time at Pop Recs I met a few pillars of the Sunderland creative community: David and Peter Brewis from the band Field Music, and Ian Black, who played in both Field Music and is the guy behind SLUG. I consequently started playing in SLUG, sparking the desire for me to write and record music of my own as well as occasionally performing live.

With the support of these people, along with Dave and Michael at Pop Recs, I started working on what will become my first solo album. The album is in the last stages of being completed and has been a six year process, mainly due to dipping in and out of other commitments (touring two albums with SLUG and also finishing a degree in molecular biology).

Last year, I was the recipient of the Sunderland Creative Development Fellowship, supporting me in finishing my album. It has given me the means to add touches to my work which otherwise would not have been possible, as well as allowing me to take the time I need to work on the album.

Black and white photograph of the back of the head and shoulders of a man, with his face reflected o=in a mirror on the right hand side
Photo credit: Kuba Ryniewicz

It also gave me the confidence to take a leap of faith and move to Berlin, where I have lived for just over a year now. Here I have been slowly working on the album and making connections in the music and art scene here, collaborating with other musicians and visual artists (before a certain global pandemic, of course). My friend Elijah used an image of me as a reference for a drawing, which was shown in an exhibition in Chicago, and I plan on using this as my album cover.

Whilst here in Berlin, I still work and collaborate with friends back home in Sunderland, with Dave Brewis mixing my recordings and other collaborators adding touches to tracks. Being a creative from Sunderland has imparted a very special work ethic to me, as well as a strong D.I.Y. mentality. Sunderland has a very special cultural identity and I hope to keep it as part of me wherever I end up and for as long as I’m producing work.

Bandcamp: https://rhyspatts.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhyspatts


Visit the Paint the Town in Sound online exhibition and see if you can spot the references to SLUG and Pop Recs, as well as Field Music!

Paint the Town in Sound is the second in our series of Arts Council Collection National Partner exhibitions. Find out more about the programme here.

Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships were supported through the Unlock strand of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme, supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, and funded by Coastal Communities Fund, a partnership with Sunderland City Council. For more opportunities, available throughout the year, visit Sunderland Culture’s opportunities page.