Creating a 'Canny Space' in Sunderland

We want to save structure of the nationally important Holy Trinity and give it a sustainable future.

We want to create ‘The Canny Space’, a community venue and exciting heritage attraction – one that will interpret and tell 300 years of history and stories through engaging, immersive experiences.

We will undertake urgent conservation works, bolstered by a craft skills training programme funded by AllChurches Trust, which will give people in an area of economic disadvantage life-changing skills.


Beyond repair, we wish to adapt the building for increased use and provide it with a sustainable business plan. Through the project, we will introduce facilities and services to ensure this building is suitable for 21st century needs and ensure it has a sustainable future.

Several years of consultation have led to this plan. This includes building feasibility, building investigation and costings, community consultation, stakeholder and partners consultation. We have also undertaken extensive consultation and investigation work to inform project development. Consultation meetings/events undertaken include those with current/potential partners, young people, heritage/arts networks/organisations, local community groups/members, schools, local businesses and visitors.

Most excitingly, Sunderland-native Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics has joined The Canny Space project as Creative Director. Dave recently recorded some tracks for a forthcoming album at the church and believes this building could be a real asset to the local community and young people of Sunderland.

Dave Stewart recording in Holy Trinity

In 2015, we were awarded a stage 1 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund, which enabled us to develop this project. We are currently preparing to submit a Stage 2 bid to the HLF in December with a decision expected in March 2018. Although challenging, fundraising has a success with a total of £1,341,014 of match-funding being raised from a mix of local authority, trusts, foundations and individuals/community. However, critically, this support is dependent on a successful grant from the HLF.


Our Canny Space project is part of a 15-year cultural strategy set out by The Sunderland Cultural Partnership. To ensure the sustainability of our project, we need to reach beyond local groups, and provide a cultural offer that is exciting to a citywide and regional audience. The church itself has unique appeal–it is a rare Georgian gem, with very few examples like it surviving in the North East. We will work with other Sunderland projects–Hylton Castle, National Glass Centre and St Peter’s–to develop ‘days out’ for families and other visitors to Sunderland, and work with local heritage assets–The Donnison School, Queen Street Masonic Lodge–to build Old Sunderland’s heritage offer e.g. through interactive heritage walks and joint celebrations of Georgian history.


Holy Trinity church, Sunderland is collapsing. It is a Grade I listed building. It is one of just two Grade I early Georgian churches surviving in the northeast of England. It has been on the Heritage at Risk register for several years and has been nominated as one of the ‘7 Most Endangered’ buildings in Europe. Click here to visit the appeal page.