Source: Sunderland Echo

ROCK star Dave Stewart is backing calls to turn Sunderland city centre into the cultural capital of the North East.

The Wearside-born musician has agreed to be an honorary member of the new Sunderland City Centre Traders’s Association and its Wear1City campaign.

The music superstar sent an exclusive video message played ahead of a question-and-answer session with city council leader Coun Paul Watson yesterday.

The meeting was held at the Corner Flag, in High Street West, in which the musician highlighted the role the arts can play in regeneration.

He told the assembled city centre traders in the audience: “I’m not really a council kind of person or really a businessman at all, but I have, in a way, been running a creative business for years.

“There is one thing I think is really important – that creativity is not locked out of the area.”

One person could make a real difference, he said. Alma Schindler, the wife of composer Gustav Mahler, had hosted a series of meetings in the early 1900s, bringing all sorts of artists together and turning Vienna into a creative powerhouse.

“An entire city can change through one person,” said Mr Stewart.

The songwriter already has experience of the kind of creative centre he was talking about:

“In London, I created a place called the Hospital Club,” he said.

“It is a creative members’ club. Lots of people are members from the creative industries.”

Something similar could be created in Sunderland. One possible scheme exists for the former city fire station, next to the Empire theatre, but Dave Stewart suggested another possible location.

“The Vaux site, for instance,” he said, “ I think it would be interesting to have there something like a creative members’ club or a certain kind of hotel, that hosts these kinds of meetings.

“That would be something I would be really interested in.”

Last night’s meeting was held to discuss concerns raised by traders about the state of the city centre. Issues including parking, the future of the Sunniside area and police patrols on the streets were all raised during the meeting.