With the World Cup 2022 well underway in Qatar, footy fever has taken over Sunderland Museum & Winter Garden with a brand new football inspired exhibition! 


Artwork inspired by the beautiful game  is on display at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens –timed to coincide with the 2022 FIFA World Cup and finish in the 50th anniversary year of SAFC’s FA Cup Final victory.

The paintings, photography and mixed media work form the Football Art Prize, which was created through support from Arts Council England to celebrate the world’s most popular sport in World Cup year.


Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens Football Exhibition 

Sunderland Museum Football

The 50 artists involved are from around the world, but include Sunderland artist Robert Soden and Peterlee-born artist Mick Kirkbride, a huge SAFC fan.

Judges for the Football Art Prize included former England player turned pundit David James MBE; Gordon Taylor OBE – ex-CEO of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA); writer Sacha Craddock; Jo Cunningham – Exhibitions, Collections and Archives Manager at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, and Turner prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger.

The Football Art Prize exhibition started its tour at Touchstones Gallery in Rochdale before travelling on to The Millennium Gallery in Sheffield and is now open at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. The free exhibition will be on display in the Special Exhibitions Gallery until Saturday, March 11 next year. Each artwork is accompanied by a statement from the artist explaining their inspiration for the work.

Although born in Peterlee, Mick Kirkbride has worked in London for more than 30 years. He attended The Royal Academy School’s postgraduate painting course in the early 1990s and in 2004 was elected a member of the New English Art Club with whom he exhibits on a regular basis.

Football – and SAFC in particular – is a passion and a grant from Northern Arts allowed him to attend the World Cup Finals in Italy in 1990 to develop a series of paintings based on football hooliganism.

His large painting chosen for the Football Art Prize exhibition was one of a series of other football related paintings he created in 2007: “It’s a celebratory painting about the global appeal of the beautiful game – it echoes games I went to in the 1970s and 1980s when fans used to throw toilet rolls on to the pitch.

“Despite being down in London for so long I’m still a massive Sunderland fan. My dad managed a few local clubs including Spennymoor and Tow Law and I still get to as many Sunderland games as I can – coming back to the north east to watch a game, or seeing them when they’re playing in London.”


The Football Art Prize at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens 

Sunderland Museum Football 2

Artist Christy Burdock is less of a football fan, but was delighted her work, Grace and Eloquence, had been chosen for the exhibition.

“The pencil drawing depicts two women footballers, playing in a park. It’s a reminder that over the last couple of years Covid restrictions meant the closest some of us got to freedom was a kick around in a park, or some other activity in a park.

“When I watch professional footballers playing they look to have the grace, eloquence and poetry of ballerinas. The work reflects both the poetry and skill of footballers and what they contribute to society – they’re wonderful role models.”

Christy has attended the opening of exhibitions at each of the three venues. In opening the Football Art Prize at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Rebecca Ball, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said the exhibition could not have been better timed:

“Coinciding with the UEFA Women’s Euros in the summer when it opened in Sheffield and now the FIFA World Cup 2022, and of course the exhibition runs here in Sunderland until March 2023, the 50th anniversary year of Sunderland winning the FA Cup. The timing could not have been more perfect.

“We love this exhibition because it is another example of how fantastic art work can be brilliantly appealing, engaging and fun for people of all ages. We hope the promise of football might tempt in a few visitors who do not see themselves as typical ‘exhibition Goers.’

“The project has also offered a perfect opportunity to engage with some wonderful local partners, such as the Fans Museum and the Beacon of Light – we’ll be working with fashion students from the University of Sunderland on a February half-term project to share their skills with families. The students have already created prototype training kits and designs for the SAFC women’s youth team, testing ideas with groups from the Beacon of Light. The kits will be displayed in the Art Lounge here at the museum and we will be encouraging families to design their own kits, inspired by the students’ designs.”

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Football events at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens 

Sunderland Museum Football 1


To coincide with the exhibition, the museum has created a learning and engagement programme of activities, aimed at children, families and older people. The programme includes: 

A Football Fun Trail (Saturday, November 19 to Friday, February 24 10am – 4pm)Follow the trail to discover amazing football facts from Sunderland and around the world. Trails are £1 each and available to buy from the museum shop;

Tuesday Museum Club: Football Games (Tuesday, January 3 10am – 11.30am) – This monthly session for home educated families with children aged 5 – 11 years old will explore football-themed games from the past, creating a tabletop football game from recycled materials, £3.50 per child, adults free. Places can be pre-booked on sunderlandmuseum.org.uk or via the Museum Shop;

Creative Age: Football Crafts (Wednesdays, January 25 – February 15 1pm-3pm) – Find your happy place in our weekly creative sessions for adults living with early to mid-stage dementia and their carers and others with long-term health needs. These sessions are friendly, chatty and fun. 

The programme also includes working with schools on a Poems of Football project and an evening with Look North’s Jeff Brown and SAFC historian Rob Mason discussing ‘Beautiful Moments in the Beautiful Game’ on Friday, February 10. Visit the museum’s website for details and to book tickets.

Visitors will also be able to choose their own favourite artwork through Fans Favourite competition, in which entrants will be entered into a prize draw to win football-themed goodies, including signed SAFC balls.

For more information on the exhibition and learning and engagement programme, go to www.sunderlandmuseum.org.uk

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