IT’S the season of big outdoor events – and nowhere does them better than the North East.
Sunderland is centre stage this summer with concerts at the Stadium of Light, the Split Festival and the Sunderland International Air Show attracting many millions of pounds to the region and giving a tremendous boost to the North East’s profile across the country.
The region has a thriving tradition of producing and enjoying major events, from the Miners’ Gala to the Great North Run. This year the Olympics have created region-wide reasons to celebrate the route of the Olympic torch, and the Games will bring thousands of visitors to watch football at Newcastle’s stadium.
Each exciting event does wonders for our economy, with hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and local businesses reaping the benefits. In the longer-term they can also provide a unique spur for business development and economic growth.
The region’s universities benefit from the impact of these events as potential students make up their minds up about which university to choose. Location is important when deciding where to spend the next three years of your life.
Universities themselves contribute hugely to the growth of the regional economy and to the creation of large events. For graduation ceremonies alone we attract around 12,000 visitors to Sunderland, who spend many thousands of pounds during their stay.
A report from the Centre for Cities believes that universities play an important role in a city economy as an “anchor institution” because they attract students from the UK and abroad and they are significant employers. In many cities, including Sunderland, this anchor role is strengthened through powerful partnerships between universities, businesses and councils to help shape future growth.
The buzz of a university city is also infectiously attractive to residents and visitors, and that dynamism helps to make spectacular events such as concerts, festivals and big sporting occasions successful propositions.
John Peel once said: “Sunderland is the new Manchester”. If the major events planned in the city this summer are anything to go by, Sunderland is not only showing the same confidence, commitment and focussed approach as Manchester did in the 1990s, but is carving its own distinct identity as a city with the passion and expertise to make things happen across all sectors.
As a destination for stunningly successful events Sunderland and the wider region deserves its place on the world stage.
:: Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland