Sunderland’s new river festival is taking to the water on the weekend of Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September.

Opposite banks of the Wear – the northside at St Peter’s Quayside and on the southside along Low Street and into the East End – are hosting the weekend festival.

The line-up includes live music, family entertainment, giant costumed characters and stage performances while the river is hosting sports and activities.

This inaugural event is a celebration of both the city’s maritime heritaqe and cultural future, and is being held on the same riverside sites which welcomed 1.2 million visitors to last year’s award-winning Tall Ships Races.

Activity marquees on both sides of the river will be open each day from noon until early evening providing a base from which to explore the riverside.

Children and their families will discover walkabout characters, giant maritime creatures, and street theatre recapturing Sunderland’s maritime heritage and age-old relationship with the sea.


Low Street will have a heritage focus where visitors are invited to meet costumed characters and famous faces from the city’s past such as Jack Crawford and Peggy Potts, and interact with a range of street theatre.

At St. Peter’s visitors can experience a beautiful, funny and interactive show within ‘The Whale’, which is an impressive 18m (60ft) giant inflatable blue whale.

Both days also feature the very best in live musical entertainment from the respective stage and bandstand areas, with singer Keith Gregson, leading local band Dennis and national folk/rock favourite Martin Stephenson among those appearing.

Sunderland City Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “We hope that everyone will support the new Sunderland River Festival, and help us establish it as another part of our annual events programme in Sunderland.

“It’s a mixture of family themed events and activities, live music, street theatre and water-based sports programme for everyone to enjoy.

“The River Wear brought life to our city and the communities along its banks, and this festival is going to see plenty of life and action on the water and on the riversides.”


Delivered by Sunderland City Council’s award-winning events team, the Sunderland River Festival is supported by a number of sponsors including local soft drinks company Clearly Drinks, who are based on Riverside Road in the city.

CEO at Clearly Drinks, Mick Howard added: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to be sponsoring the Sunderland River Festival at the end of August and we are excited to be celebrating Sunderland’s heritage at the famous riverside with Sunderland City Council.

“The local community is important to us at Clearly Drinks and we’re really proud of our roots here in Sunderland.

“We’re looking forward to meeting people attending the event from all over the region at our stand for some family friendly activities.”

This includes the company’s ‘create your own flavoured water’ stand.

The Sunderland River Festival has Fringe events away from the event site including tours of Roker Pier, open days at the Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station, stained glass painting sessions at the National Glass Centre and chance to join the daily activities of the ‘Art Seekers on the River.’

On the river itself and the water programme between 12- 5pm each day includes: Royal Navy P2000 vessel, Shipwrights Race, Sunderland Yacht Club Junior Class dinghy racing, jet racing, fly boarding demos, Sunderland Rowing Club, Cruise in Company and stand-up paddling demos.

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