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Sunderland: The Jewel in the Cap

Filmed in Sunderland between 1988 after the last ship launch and 1993 when the town became a city, this 4 part documentary captures the upheaval felt by the town following the final closure of its shipyards. It follows many of the plans, ideas and schemes to regenerate the economy of the the town (as it was then) and launch it into the future as the advanced manufacturing centre of the north.

It’s now coming up to thirty years since that last ship built in Sunderland slipped into the river Wear on a dark December evening in 1988 and we’ve decided to put the film online for the first time. Featuring archive of how the river was, the demolition of the shipyard cranes and the creation of new enterprise parks along the river, the film also follows three Sunderland families, each with a teenager studying for GCSE exams and with their own hopes and aspirations for the future. Can the vision for Sunderland help them realise their own ambitions? Street parties, FA Cup finals and house parties all reveal a little of Sunderland’s notorious culture and in yet another declaration of a bright future, a young Michael Portillo makes an appearance (and not a train to be seen).

Shown here in four parts it captures the changes in Sunderland that, like for so many other similar post industrial towns and cities, seems to have been going on forever. There’s always talk of regeneration, always talk of what the city will become, meanwhile people try to get on with their lives and find their place amidst the seemingly constant yet necessary upheaval around them. The film ends in 1993 with yet another major industry closure and the final piece in the demolition jigsaw.

Part One 1988-90

Part Two 1990-91

Part Three 1991-92

Part Four 1992-93


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