‘At risk’ Grade I listed Sunderland church secures £2.8 million National Lottery grant

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), the national heritage charity protecting historic churches at risk, has today received £2.8 million National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to save and transform Sunderland’s Holy Trinity Church into The Canny Space, an exciting new cultural centre.

Led by the CCT with support from local partners and volunteers from the local community, the ambitious project will repair and adapt a landmark, at risk Grade I listed building in ‘Old Sunderland’ into a multi-use centre for community events, music, performance, crafts and storytelling.

Work will start on-site in April 2019 and the new centre will be due to open in June 2020.

Holy Trinity was once located at the heart of Sunderland. Built in 1719 near the town's busy docks, the building housed the city’s first public library, civic rooms, Magistrates' Court and even the local fire engine as well as serving as the parish church. It was used and loved by countless people. But gradually the city centre shifted and Holy Trinity fell out of use. 

The new project, part of a 15-year cultural strategy set out by The Sunderland Cultural Partnership, will give the historic building a new life. It will provide a space for local people to meet, collaborate, create and develop life-changing skills. There will be an on-going programme of community events and professional performances and visitors to the site will also be able to see and hear stories of Sunderland’s past.

The project is supported by Sunderland native and award-winning musician and producer Dave Stewart, of Eurythmics fame, who will be Creative Director of The Canny Space.

The Canny Space has already hosted and supported local musicians, artists and makers as part of a consultation and development period. This July a new artwork by Wearside artist Matt Stokes and members of the local community will be installed on-site in Sunderland’s East End during the Tall Ships celebrations.

Commenting on the award, Peter Aiers, CEO of The Churches Conservation Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this National Lottery support for this transformative project. The Canny Space will make a real difference to people’s lives in the East End of Sunderland, one of Britain’s most economically deprived areas. It will play a significant role in the city’s cultural resurgence and rightfully celebrate the fascinating stories of Sunderland’s past and present. We’d like to extend our thanks to HLF for this award and to all those who have helped fund and support this project to date.”

Explaining the importance of National Lottery support, the HLF’s Chief Executive Ros Kerslake, said: “Heritage makes a place distinctive and with the right investment and a good business plan, it has the power to transform an area physically and economically.  Holy Trinity has always been more than a place of worship, it was the beating civic heart of Sunderland’s East End and will be again thanks to players of the National Lottery.”

In addition to HLF’s award of £2.8 million pounds, we are grateful to have received additional support from donoros including Sunderland City Council, Allchurches Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Sir James Knott Trust and Foyle Foundation.  Almost £1 million has been raised from other sources, with £72,000 still to raise. To learn more about the project or to donate visit www.visitchurches.org.uk/sunderlandsos.


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