OLD AND NEW WAYS TO CELEBRATE CITY’S RICH HERITAGE

A JOINT exhibition in an iconic Sunderland building is celebrating the city’s proud heritage in a new way.

Artists Ian Potts and Richard Fletcher are bringing Sunderland’s history to life with their Lost and Found exhibition in Mackie’s Corner, at the crossroads of Fawcett Street and High Street West.

The exhibition uses both ultra-modern and traditional ways in which to celebrate Sunderland’s rich heritage.

Teacher turned artist Ian is using old photographs, workshops, maps and paintings to evoke memories of places and people, while former journalist turned artist Richard is using much more modern methods – Virtual Reality and smartphone technology.

Ian explained: “Richard and I are essentially doing the same thing – but where I’m using clippy mats and pencils, Richard is using the very latest technology.”

“My element of Lost and Found is in two parts. Firstly I’m using VR headsets for people to explore melded images created by old and new photographs of places in Sunderland. We’ve combined old and modern views of the same locations. The second element is an interactive game in which people can use their smartphones to look at a map of Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone and answer questions on locations,” explained Richard.

The two artists were commissioned by Sunderland Culture who are programming exhibitions and events into Mackie’s Corner through its Great Place scheme before the historic building is redeveloped next year.

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.

Sunderland Culture Producer Helen Ross explained: “We thought the commission would go to one artist, but Ian and Richard came up with similar ideas through very different approaches and I thought it would be fascinating to produce a joint exhibition. I think it has worked really well and the artists have learned from each other.”

Richard agreed: “Ian’s knowledge of the city and his contacts have enabled me to produce better content and I hope I’ve helped Ian bring more interactivity to his work.”

“We’re hoping people will pop in and our work will spark conversations and memories. They may see a name, a street or a photograph that stirs a forgotten memory and then the conversations will flow,” said Ian, who will have his Mackem Map of memories on display as part of the exhibition. “People will be able to add to the map, should they wish to do so,” added Ian.

Richard was a local newspaper reporter until the summer, since when he has worked in some of the region’s largest tourist attractions making visits easier and more enjoyable through the use of virtual reality and digital experiences.

Lost and Found will be open between 10am and 3pm at Mackie’s Corner on the following dates: Wednesday, December 12; Thursday, December 13; Friday, December 14; Saturday, December 15; Thursday, December 20; Friday, December 21; Friday, January 4; Saturday, January 5 and Saturday, January 12. Friday, December 14 will be a special music open day with live music performed by local musicians and bands.

Mackie’s Corner 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.

The building is part of the wider Hutchinson buildings that were bought earlier this year by Sunderland property developer Henry Kirtley and his daughter Alex.