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Sunderland to host the biggest free festival in the UK

Tall Ships

Tall Ships Race Sunderland 2018 takes place on 11-14 July. Photo copyright Valery Vasilevsky and Sail Training International

Michelle Daurat, head of business and operations at the National Glass Centre, is at the helm of the team pulling together a four-day event in Sunderland to kick of the Tall Ships Race 2018. The event is set to start on 11 July and will see the city port on the banks of the river Wear host the biggest free –and outdoor – festival in the UK.

“We are still in the planning stage but work progresses well and on time for the event in July next year,” Daurat told Access, adding that organisers expect the event will attract 1.5 million people over the four days.

“There will be five different events zones for people to visit in Sunderland, all free and open to the public from 10am to 10pm,” Daurat explained.

Tall Ships Race is a brand of Sail Training International (STI), a charity that has run the event since it started back in 1950s. Every year, European cities bid for hosting the race in their ports. Sunderland will be the first port of call for the race next year. STI told Access that registration is still open for ships to join the race and that 24 international teams have already signed up for the 2018 challenge.

“The Tall Ships Race is a long-standing tradition in Europe,” Daurat said. “Four ports are chosen, so all ships in the race go to the first port, have a four-day festival in the city, then race to the next port and have another four-day festival, and so forth until the fourth port,” she explained.

Daurat told Access that activities in the four-day extravaganza includes visits to the ships and sailing trips on the day. In addition, the city centre will play host of a multi-form festival comprising live performances, trade and consumer shows.

“This is a great opportunity for the events industry to get involved and for everyone to benefit,” Daurat said. “We have a space for trade exhibitions and catering stands, and bars. We are looking for something a bit special, and a bit quirky. Yes, there’s a place to have burger vans and everyone love it, but we also want something a little bit of a w0w factor too,” she commented.

Daurat also noted that the full cultural programme will be released after Christmas. “The programme features a big artistic commission on the riverside and fireworks display on each night. But really the big event for us will be on Saturday 14 July with the parade of sail,” she explained.

The parade of sail takes place the last day of the festival, when the ships are ready to leave the port they sill sail to the Roker Pier and northward along the north east coast for about five miles. Duraut explained: “We expect the northeast coast to be a ramp packed of people watching! The ships will then turn around and will sail back to the pier, eastward and off to the next port in Denmark.”

Sunderland Hudson dock and river

Hudson dock and river in Sunderland

Challenging event

Sunderland-born, Daurat got involved in the organisation following the city’s bid for hosting the race was successful. This is the second time she is at the helm of the planning for a major event like this. Daurat worked with the port city of Hartlepool when it hosted the Tall Ships Race in 2010.

“When we did Hartlepool in 2010 we were the final port. Sunderland in 2018 will be the first, and one of our challenges is to build the momentum and create an excitement across Europe, so when the ships leave us to the next port in Denmark people will be already excited about the event,” Daurat explained.

How many people are involved for the event in Sunderland?

Michelle Daurat

Michelle Daurat

We a small, dedicated team within the local authority to work on this project alone. But there are a lot of people within the council who are helping in the project with specific roles around licensing, waste management, etc.

Externally we are working with lots of partners, all of the emergency services, coast guard, marine police unit, Sunderland Culture – a new organisation made up of local organisations and we’re working with them for the programme. We are also working with the business district in Sunderland, with the college for volunteering, so it’s a citywide project to make sure that everybody benefit.

How much finding is going to the event?

MD: We are looking at around £3m. Most of this funding comes from Sunderland City Council. We are also trying to raise sponsorships with the public and private sector, bidding into external grant fund, like heritage lottery fund and Arts Council, and other foundations. We also have the income side of the project from catering, exhibitions stands, bar, etc.

What about the economic impact for Sunderland?

MD: We had some early research done looking into the benefit for the city and the region. Early estimates show this would be at around £35m economic. That’s phenomenal.

Copyright 2017 © Valery Vasilevsky and Sail Training International

Daurat commented that one of the special features of Sunderland is that the city already has people with experience and expertise in managing major international events.

“We host the Sunderland International Air Show – this year’s outing was the 30th – so we can draw on that expertise for the Tall Ship Race as well,” Daurat said.

Excitement gears up in Sunderland. The city has also been shortlisted for City Culture. Daurat commented: “Sunderland is in the final five for 2021. We will find out in December. So it’s a really exciting times for the city.”

Tall Ships Race Sunderland 2018 requires 350 volunteers and the organiser is also offering bursaries for those willing to take part in the sailing academy to join one of the ships in the race.

More information in the Tall Ships Race website. https://www.tallshipssunderland.com/