Sunderland Culture have announced the recipients of their inaugural Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships. 

Launched in June 2019, the Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships aim to support artistic development within Sunderland and over sixty applications were submitted from creative practitioners from across the borough.

Fourteen Fellowships were awarded in total, including eight to graduates from the University of Sunderland.

Recipients range from a broad selection of creative disciplines and also represent practitioners at varying stages of their careers – from emerging to established. These include writing (Iain Rowan, Alan Parkinson), performance (Rosie Vleugels), music (Rhys Patterson), curatorship (Rory Williams), photography (Jo Howell), illustration and design (Kathryn Robertson), glass art (Jeffery Sarmiento, Rachel Welford, Anna Selway), visual art ( Susan Loughlin, Rachel Groves), participatory art (Steph Robson), and Sunderland Maritime Heritage.

The Creative Development Fellowships will enable each individual to develop their creative practice in a range of diverse ways – from funding practical tools and equipment, mentorship, business support and courses, to completing a music album or exhibiting work around the country. 

Laura Brewis, Producer for Artist Development and Creative Economy at Sunderland Culture, said:


“Many funding applications ask applicants to do a “project”, but we wanted to launch a programme that offered support to creative practitioners and organisations in Sunderland to develop themselves and think about what might make them more resilient as practitioners or move them to the next stage of their career.”

“We were thrilled by the amount of fantastic applications, particularly the number of graduates from the University of Sunderland who have been successful and are choosing to stay and work in the city. We hope that programmes such as the Sunderland Creative Development Bursary will make the cultural and heritage sectors in the city stronger and more sustainable.”

Rachel Welford, who specialises in making glass artworks for architectural settings and is in the final stage of a PhD at the University of Sunderland, said:

“Although the creative aspects of my art are going well, the business and financial side of what I do needs improving! So I’ll be using the Creative Development Bursary for mentoring and business support to improve profitability and growth.”

Many of the Fellowship recipients intend to use this opportunity to develop their practice to share with the community. These include Susan Loughlin, who aims to design and test a model for a range of participatory art opportunities for local people, and aerial circus artist Rosie Vleugals who will be attending a professional course and purchasing safety equipment to use for performing, teaching and training.

Rosie said:

I have been training in aerial circus arts for the past six years. Once I started, it quickly became a passion, a painful one but a passion nonetheless! This help from Sunderland Culture will assist me in taking the next step – bringing new skills home to the North East to help other aerialists and budding performers.”

Over the next year, Sunderland Culture will also be offering a range of internships at Sunderland Culture itself and at other partnering organisations in order to create pathways into the creative industries.

The internships span a range of different areas, offering a wide variety of career experience opportunities.

Three graduates of Sunderland University are currently undertaking internships across different creative industries: Eddie Scott as Marketing and Social Media intern with Sunderland Music, Michael Davidson as Programme and Exhibitions intern at NEPN, and  Eve Campbell and Jenny McNamara are undertaking a joint Curatorial Internship at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

For more internship opportunities, available throughout the year, visit Sunderland Culture’s opportunity page at

The Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships are 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.

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