Our History

The original Bunker was born as a youth project in Borough Road in 1980 before moving to Green Terrace in 1982 and finally settling in it’s current home in 1983. Housed in the same building which once hosted gigs by The Clash and Billy Bragg, 29 Stockton Rd has a history synonymous with the creation of music in the North East…

The building morphed from a bakery into a music factory, when the region’s punk rockers flocked to the ramshackle surrounds to see low-key gigs organised by a collective of music enthusiasts, inspiring and laying the groundwork for next generation of post-punk bands.

Amongst these was Leatherface. Led by Frankie Stubbs and Dickie Hammond, the band reached a worldwide audience and stormed the alternative charts in the late 1980s / early 90s. Still hugely influential today, Leatherface’s DIY approach to music making and no-bullshit attiude set the blueprint in many ways for rock bands from Sunderland.

The Bunker ProtestDespite its constant support of grass-roots music and a huge creative output during the 1980’s and ’90’s, the turn of the century almost saw the end of The Bunker as the arts funding which it had ran on was set for withdrawl by government. Protest from the local community was phenomenal, and was joined by the late John Peel, who had taken a personal interest in the Sunderland music scene and donated a large sum of money in an attempt to keep The Bunker open. Despite this, funding was withdrawn in 1998, leaving the city void of a creative heart and leading to the end of the line for many local bands and artists, and music fanzine Pulse which ran from the building.

Adrian and KennyEnter two lads who’d spent their youth playing in countless bands within The Bunker walls. Kenny Sanger and Adrian Woodland bought the building outright just before it was turned into an apartment block, and The Bunker was re-opened in 2000. In the following years the local scene truly flourished with the emergence of bands like The Futureheads, Field Music, Maximo Park and countless others. As well as rejuventaing the rehearsal and recording facilities, the duo created a record label, BunkerUK Records, which allowed local bands to propel their material to a wider audience. Chris Hair joined the team in 2002 and developed The Bunker Magazine, which supported and promoted this exciting and creative time for Sunderland. The Bunker worked alongside local venues including Bar 36 (which later became Independent) to bring acts including Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party to the city. In 2005 we assisted in bringing Radio 1’s Big Weekend to Sunderland, running the fringe of the event which included performances from Foo Fighters, Gwen Stefani and Interpol.

In recent years The Bunker has redeveloped its community objectives and ran many projects to engage hard to reach learners and run music related projects for people from minority groups or problematic backgrounds, who may otherwise not consider education/training as a route to employment. We aim to provide advice and support to build confidence and help people use music towards a positive outcome, whether this results in a career in the arts or other vocations. In 2010 we received a Creative Industries Award at the Sunderland Echo’s Portfolio Business Awards.

In 2017 The Bunker is going from strength to strength. Operated day-to-day by managing director Kenny Sanger, with assistance from non-executive director Chris Hair and a brilliant team of volunteers and creatives, it continues to provide a base for hundreds of local bands and artists, and works closely with many local organisations including Pop Recs and Independent to continue developing cultural activity in the City of Sunderland.

For more on the early history of The Bunker, with images and testimonials from those who were there at the very start, please visit http://bunkerarchive.wordpress.com.

Testimonials

Barry Hyde, The Futureheads

"The Bunker is a superb place to have in Sunderland, it is a breeding ground for talent and without it I doubt I would have ever become a professional musician. I have been going there for 15 years and it's better than ever. It's soulful, ethical and affordable and the city would be screwed without it. I love it."
2013-08-12T23:38:07+00:00
"The Bunker is a superb place to have in Sunderland, it is a breeding ground for talent and without it I doubt I would have ever become a professional musician. I have been going there for 15 years and it's better than ever. It's soulful, ethical and affordable and the city would be screwed without it. I love it."

Peter Brewis, Field Music

"Sunderland owes a great deal to the Bunker. Not just because of the bands it has helped to nurture. Well known bands reveal only a fraction of the important work that the bunker does. The work the bunker does is truly invaluable and our City cannot do without it!
2013-08-12T23:38:48+00:00
"Sunderland owes a great deal to the Bunker. Not just because of the bands it has helped to nurture. Well known bands reveal only a fraction of the important work that the bunker does. The work the bunker does is truly invaluable and our City cannot do without it!

Sandhill View School

"We are sincerely grateful for The Bunker's contribution and support to the Work Experience Programme. Their work is always very much appreciated"
2013-08-12T23:39:06+00:00
"We are sincerely grateful for The Bunker's contribution and support to the Work Experience Programme. Their work is always very much appreciated"

Jim Mawdsley (CEO at Generator)

"Generator has partnered with The Bunker since 2004 to bring a number of live events and unique training opportunities for emerging artists and businesses involved in the music industry. This valuable relationship enables both of our organisations to continue to develop music in Sunderland and throughout the North East."
2013-08-12T23:39:41+00:00
"Generator has partnered with The Bunker since 2004 to bring a number of live events and unique training opportunities for emerging artists and businesses involved in the music industry. This valuable relationship enables both of our organisations to continue to develop music in Sunderland and throughout the North East."

Ben Wall, Independent

"The Bunker is such an important player in the Sunderland music scene and are always there when we need them. Their experience is invaluable and the quality of their work is second to none."
2013-08-12T23:39:56+00:00
"The Bunker is such an important player in the Sunderland music scene and are always there when we need them. Their experience is invaluable and the quality of their work is second to none."