ONE of Sunderland’s most iconic buildings is to be brought back to life.

Mackie’s Corner is to host two exhibitions delivered by Sunderland Culture through its Great Place scheme. Sunderland Culture last year secured £1.25m of National Lottery funding from the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.

Both exhibitions will echo the landmark building’s past – it was built in 1845 on the site of a large house owned by Dr William Clanny, inventor of the miners’ safety lamp. The building’s first tenant was Robert Mackie, a hatter.

Mackie’s shop attracted passers-by as his workers could be seen through the windows making the hats. The clock in the dome was installed a few years later and Mackie’s Corner became a favourite meeting place for Wearsiders.

Mackie’s Corner is part of the wider Hutchinson buildings that were recently bought by Sunderland property developer Henry Kirtley and his daughter Alex.

“We want to bring back Mackie’s Corner to its former glory. We’re planning shops on the ground floor, perhaps a micro brewery or distillery in the basement and something different like an apart-hotel upstairs,” explained Alex.

In the meantime, the Kirtleys have donated the space to Sunderland Culture to help bring more art into the city centre.

Sunderland Culture has commissioned two exhibitions for Mackie’s Corner, in two separate spaces and both are to run during the Tall Ships Races.

One exhibition, Mackie’s Hatters, will be delivered by newly-created arts company E-M-C Arts, whose project is designed to reimagine the context of Mackie’s original hat maker’s shop. E-M-C Arts consists of three artists, Sian O’Keeffe, Vincent Todd and Sue Loughlin, who met while studying at the University of Sunderland.

“During the four days of the Tall Ships, we’ll be working on a large-scale, carnival-style headpiece. This will form the centerpiece of the exhibition, but we’ll also be very hands-on, with lots of opportunities for the public to interact with what we’re doing. We’ll have a selfie booth with a hats theme, a collaborative mural about the history of the city and a Mackie’s Chats community board,” explained Sue.

The second exhibition will be delivered by artists Anna Selway and Tom Jordan. Anna studied Glass and Ceramics at BA and MA level at the University of Sunderland. Tom also studied Glass and Ceramics at the University of Sunderland, and since qualifying has been working as a ceramic artist.

Their exhibition will include a series of glass panels depicting scenes of the city. “We hope to offer a window into a piece of Sunderland’s creative and cultural past and to draw links with current creative practice in the city,” said Anna. “We’ll be mostly working in glass, but we also hope to work with textiles, print and wood – perhaps also do some modeling of ships to link in with the visit of the Tall Ships.”

“We’d love for people to come and watch us work, the way in which the public used to watch Mackie’s hat makers work – or even take part in what we’re doing,” she added.

Helen Ross, Producer for Sunderland Culture’s Great Place Scheme said: “One of the main focuses of our Great Place programme is bringing city centre spaces and buildings to life through culture – and that’s exactly what our two exhibitions will do.

“We’d like to thank Henry and Alex Kirtley for their enthusiastic support and helping to make this project happen,” Helen added.

* Both free exhibitions will be open to the public at Mackie’s Corner from 10am – 5pm from Wednesday, July 11 to Saturday, July 14.

Image caption: MEETING AT MACKIE’S CORNER … (left to right) artists Sue Loughlin, Anna Selway, Tom Jordan, Vincent Todd, Sian O’Keeffe, with Alex Kirtley and Great Place producer Helen Ross