It’s a truth universally acknowledge that a graduate in search of a job in media or a creative career must want to move to London. Or at least to Manchester or Glasgow, right?
What then made us so stubborn in our desire to stay in Sunderland?
This is not a polished city, full of steel and glass, nor is it a city that feels neat and finished, tied up in a bow. There are empty spaces, unused buildings, unoccupied land. Places that, to a more pessimistic eye, might seem abandoned or unwelcoming, are in fact potential studios or rehearsal rooms, blank canvases, spaces ready rejuvenation and rebirth.
Walk around Edinburgh or London alternatively and the architecture is arguably more impressive, but it can feel imposing. With such grand, pristine history the keys of change are kept in the hands of a powerful few, which makes much of the city seems closed off, inaccessible, restricted. There may be much to admire, but you do it from a distance.
Sure there seems to be hundreds of interesting jobs inside the M25, but there are also hundreds of thousands of people all chasing those same positions. In the North East those jobs may be fewer in number, but they’re arguably desirable, higher quality positions, where you’re more likely to become not just a cog in a mammoth corporate machine, but a welcome, important part of a close-knit team.
And it’s more than just a euphemistic cliché to call the region ‘friendly’. Perhaps it’s better to explain that the North East is comprehendible in size, it’s open and accessible in character, it’s conquerable even.
The communities around each industry are small enough to penetrate and you can quickly get to know some of the more influential people, and become known yourself. For those seeking a foothold in their ideal career it’s remarkably more attainable to achieve the ‘who you know’ portion of that old jobseeker proverb.
But for those launching a new creative start-up, the benefits of basing yourself in Sunderland are multiplied. One of the most significant factors being that it is relatively inexpensive to live and rent office space in the city. For many businesses this is a bonus, but for a creative company this can be the difference between being willing to invest in yourself and take that risk, or staying still.
Knowing that your rent and living costs aren’t exorbitant makes it easier to test new ideas, to invent, to try and to make mistakes, to experiment and even to (briefly) fail. Nobody but nobody gets it all right first time round. Creativity and progress require courage and great leaps in faith and imagination. And those things are so much harder to achieve with bills mounting up.
But it’s not just beautifully designed and affordable office space, a genuinely supportive business community and an outward facing university that makes Sunderland special. The icing on the cake is the gorgeous, peaceful stretch of coastline which the city nestles next to. There’s room to breath, space to relax and recuperate. It’s where to go when you need a break, or seek inspiration, or want a cracking coffee and a stroll down the beach.
As any start-up will tell you, every decision you make early on feels vital and fraught with anxiety - few more so than where you base your business. Sunderland is a city with heart and character, which makes it a fun place to be. But it's the passionate, tireless and generous spirit of the people and the warmth and accessibility of the business and creative community which made it the perfect fit for us.
Everybody already knows about Sunderland's illustrious heritage, but not everyone has experienced the city's cultural revival. Big things are happening here, and with the UK City of Culture 2021 title Sunderland could be transformed into a technological and artistic powerhouse.
And as the city continues to grow and evolve and realise its potential, we'll be right along side it cheering it on and sharing in its success.