Chart-topping singer songwriter James Bay is the new patron of music venue Pop Recs who are making a new home in Sunderland’s historic High Street West.

James visited Sunderland yesterday (Monday June 4) to see the new premises. He has been a long-term supporter of Pop Recs, playing in their first premises on Fawcett Street in 2015 and maintaining strong connections with the venue ever since.

It’s an exciting time for Pop Recs, the starting point for thousands of musicians and artists, many of whom have gone on to national and international stages.

The venue has just been given a £15,000 Arts Council England (ACE) National Lottery project grant which, working in partnership with Sunderland Culture, Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT) and the Heritage Action Zone, will enable them to move into an exciting new stage of development.

The partnership is working to help Pop Recs expand into new premises on 170-172 High Street West. The currently derelict historic buildings sit within the city’s Heritage Action Zone, and were gifted by Sunderland City Council to TWBPT who have begun the restoration thanks to a grant from Historic England. Pop Recs will move into 170-172 High Street West in the summer, while maintaining their current premises on Stockton Road.

James Bay released his first single Hold Back the River in 2014. It was certified platinum before his debut studio album Chaos and the Calm was released the following year. The album went to number one in the UK, and in 2016 was awarded the Best British Male Solo Artist at the Brit Awards. His second album, Electric Light, was released last month (May). 

Dave Harper, of Pop Recs and drummer for Frankie and the Heartstrings, said: “James has been amazingly supportive of Pop Recs. We got to know him through his tour manager who we know, and when he came up so sing for us in Fawcett Street he said he would do what he could to support us.

“A lot of people have said that to us, but it’s a testament to James that he has continued to support us and been pivotal in our development. We’re delighted that he has agreed to be our patron and we really appreciate his enthusiasm and backing.

“We’re delighted he came to visit us and our new premises yesterday and I’m hoping he’ll come back to open them when we’re fully ready. We’re looking forward to having a bigger venue, where we can make a bigger difference for the people of Sunderland and in particular, the people of the East End.”

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director for Sunderland Culture said: “Pop Recs has quickly established itself as an important and groundbreaking venue for Sunderland’s music scene. We’re thrilled to be working with them.

“Existing support from HLF and this new investment from ACE will enable Pop Recs to launch an exciting programme of cultural events during the Tall Ships visit the city.

“The development of Pop Recs’ new home is an important part of the ambitious Twenty Four Seven cultural vision for the city, which is the legacy plan from Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.”

Martin Hulse, Trust Manager for TWBPT said the development of the High Street West as a new home for Pop Recs was an exciting project, and that all the partners involved were working well together.

“The council invited us to try and rescue the buildings three years ago, and I did a lot of research with the local community about what sort of development they wanted to see. We had a very clear steer that they wanted a cultural project and not housing.

“I met with Rebecca from Sunderland Culture who then introduced me to Pop Recs, and it’s all gone from there. It’s a fabulous project with so much opportunity, and the council, Historic England and other partners have been fantastic to work with.

“Although we’ve been working with Pop Recs for a year or so, they hadn’t actually seen inside the building until a couple of months ago – that was a very special moment, a moment that made all the hard work so far worthewhile.

“Pop Recs will take one of the buildings rent free for three years while we work on restoring the other two buildings. Then the hope is they’ll transfer over into the other buildings,” added Martin.

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