OUR region is riven by rivalries; Wear versus Tyne, Hartlepool versus Darlington, Yorkshire versus everywhere else...

Ask a northeasterner which football team they support and you risk falling out with them forever. We cannot even agree how to spell the word ha’way, or is it howay? Divvint ask us because we dinnit know.

One thing we can agree upon is that we are a heck of a powerful bunch when we join forces. Sunderland’s City of Culture bid has offered a chance to set aside our squabbles and fight for something that could benefit the whole region.

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The contest has been the talk of Wearside for weeks. On Thursday  evening, live on BBC's The One Show, Sunderland will hear if it has beaten Coventry, Stoke, Paisley and Swansea to the 2021 title which goes way beyond giving a boost to the local arts scene. This award is also about regeneration, tourism, identity, pride, hope. 

All of the bidding cities are particularly keen to win after seeing what has been achieved in Hull. Being City of Culture has boosted the Humberside economy by an estimated £60 million. It had a similarly galvanising effect on the winner in 2013 Derry/Londonderry – another place scarred by internal divisions which used culture to find common ground and purpose.

The favourite for this year’s title is Paisley. In the midst of Brexit talks, with the union looking shaky, the politically expedient choice may be to hand the title to Scotland or Wales after towns in Northern Ireland and England have had their chance. This would be a mistake. Sunderland needs this boost more than most and the powerful, unifying campaign it has run shows that the city can be trusted to use the title and its cash prize as a springboard for a reconstruction that's desperately needed.  

In the hours before the judges make their final decision you can back Sunderland’s bid on social using the hashtags #Sunderland2021 #UKCityofCulture2021 and the handle @DCMS.

They deserve your support. A victory for Sunderland will be a victory for the whole of our region.