From unlikely underdogs to the driving force behind Sunderland’s growing culture scene, Pop Recs has become a beacon of light for creatives around the region. A renowned Wearside institute situated in the heart of the city, we met with Frankie Francis, Amazing Radio drive-time presenter and lead singer of Frankie & The Heartstrings to discuss this fabulous cultural hub.
“ART IS WONDERFUL, AND MUSIC CAN UNITE SO MANY PEOPLE. YOU CAN FIND COMMON GROUND IN A PLACE LIKE POP RECS.”
In 2013, Frankie & The Heartstrings opened Pop Recs. A small, independent record store that was based in the abandoned tourist office on Fawcett Street.
Originally planned as a temporary advertising tool for their forthcoming album release, the band were blown away by the store’s reception from the community.
Guests could wander over to the store and expect band members from their favourite band behind the counter, busy grinding coffee beans for waiting customers.
Music followers were invited to browse through a limited selection of second-hand vinyl records and Frankie & The Heartstrings fans could peruse through a small-batch of band merchandise. Stock was limited but the demand and passion was there from the start.
Frankie & The Heartstrings had just released Hungerand were featuring heavily at festivals around the UK – and everyone wanted a piece of the action.
The residency on Fawcett Street was extended and more visitors continued to arrive to check out this vibrant new store.
Pop Recs began inviting the community to get involved with regular mid-week classes that ranged from photograph classes and yoga lessons.
They also took their live music offerings to the next level too. In 2015, Pop Recs announced that Brit Award- winner James Bay would be playing live in-store, a seminal moment for the team at Pop Recs.
Frankie explains that places like Pop Records are vital to the local music and culture scene. “Independent venue week is a very important thing to highlight. These are the kind of venues that are the lifeblood of the live music scene.”
Six years later, Pop Recs have moved from their temporary premise into a brand new building and are the driving force behind Sunderland’s emerging culture scene.
Standing tall on Stockton Road and just a stone’s throw away from Park Lane Interchange, Pop Recs now have a bigger, more cohesive creative space that still manages to retain the essence of their previous residency on Fawcett Street.
There’s a larger coffee offering, a communal seating area that’s ideal for watching the world go by, more musical records to scour through and they now have a performing space dedicated to punk icon Frank Turner.
Not only has live music events improved, their outreach into the community soared too.
Frankie describes the importance of Pop Recs social outreach: “You have to involve as many different sectors of the community that you can. Giving a demographic an opportunity, an area or just a space, a table with chairs, a practice room or venue to try something. It’s that an initial step.”
Sporadic mid-week events turned into reoccurring happenings that regularly sold out well in advance and this has continued into the current day.
Visitors can get involved with an array of interactive classes. Budding artists can learn the secrets behind printmaking and show their talents with a wide variety of photography workshops.
There’s also an abundance of activities for kids to enjoy too! From fantasy world art days to Pop Recs’ incredibly popular Saturday art classes, there’s something for the whole family to get involved with.
With local artwork lining the walls, rare vinyl albums from the region’s finest musical talent available and a fine cup of coffee waiting to be sipped on, make sure you visit this November and immerse yourself in the wonderful events at Pop Recs.