What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Cultural Spring project wants to create a happy map of Sunderland and South Tyneside

Bring the Happy will ask people to pinpoint the locations they associate with happy memories for the positive arts project

Artist Victoria Pratt
Artist Victoria Pratt

A map of happiness is being planned across Wearside and South Tyneside, thanks to a new arts project.

In January, people behind scheme ‘Bring the Happy’ will be asking residents to pinpoint geographic locations they associate with a happy memory. Each place will be recorded on a ‘happiness map’ and form part of a digital archive of happiness from around the world, which was launched in 2010.

The memory may also be used in a live music show, the culmination of the project, which will be held in the Roker Hotel, Sunderland, in late February.

Artist Victoria Pratt, from Leeds-based Invisible Flock who will deliver the project, said: “The idea came out of the recession really, when so many empty shops started appearing on our high streets and there was a lot of doom and gloom around.

“The project is all about happiness and we usually create installations in empty shops where people come and tell us about their happy memories.”

Victoria said she was particularly excited about working in the region as she has family in South Shields.

She said: “We’ve worked all over the country, from Bristol to Edinburgh but I can’t wait to get started in the North East – my mum was born in Shields and I still have a lot of family in the area.

“I have lots of happy childhood memories of the North East, but I won’t let that affect the way we look at the project,” she added.

“We’ll be in the empty Riddick shop on the corner of King Street and Fowler Street in Shields and we are exploring a couple of options for our Sunderland location. We are planning a very special collaboration with the National Glass Centre and considering a mobile installation – which would be a first for the project.”

The installations will open on January 20 and remain open until February 19 and there will be two live shows at the Roker Hotel, on February 26 and 27.

“Those who have given us a memory will be invited to the live show, which is a bit of a cross between a wedding and a wake,” said Victoria.

People attending the installations get a marker to place on a map to correspond with their memory and the happier the memory, the higher the marker.

“What we get is a real sense of identity about places. People come up with memories related to love and places related to friends and family. They also come up with memories about past industries and I’m sure we’ll hear the echoes of those in Sunderland and Shields,” said Victoria.

Rebecca Ball, Project Director at The Cultural Spring, said she was looking forward to working on Bring the Happy.

She said: “We’re delighted Invisible Flock won our Winter Tales commission and are sure our communities will be intrigued and entertained by this project.

“It’s about stories and we hope people will be willing to share theirs with us. I’m particularly looking forward to the live shows, which I understand are always quite spectacular.”

The Cultural Spring is one of 18 Creative People and Places projects, funded by the Arts Council and aimed at getting more people in Sunderland and South Tyneside to experience and be inspired by the arts.The project aims to find out what people across the 10 wards it serves want to do and then provide events, activities and workshops to satisfy them.

Local, regional and national artists have been and are being recruited in the hope of ensuring the programme engages, enthuses, entertains and educates the 100,000 people living in Castletown, Red House, Southwick, Fulwell and Roker/St Peter’s wards in Sunderland, and Biddick Hall and All Saints, Boldon Colliery, Cleadon and East Boldon, Whitburn and Marsden and Whiteleas in South Shields.

Although funded for three years, it is hoped the project will leave a lasting legacy of communities with a genuine and abiding interest in the artsThe project is driven by three partners – the University of Sunderland, the Customs House and the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust – all of whom are passionate about igniting a Cultural Spring in our wards.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer