Anorak News | Mr Mackem Goes To Washington

Mr Mackem Goes To Washington

by | 21st, June 2006

WHAT does it mean to be city?

And why do places like Sunderland want to be one? Does it make them feel equal to London, Paris and Rome?

Do the citified locals, known as Mackems, suddenly feel able to empathise with EastEnders and stories about inner-city crime, urban decay and urban regeneration in a way that was never possible when they lived in a big town?

Why we ponder what city status means, we read in the Times that Sunderland has been twinned with Washington. Not Washington, Tyne and Wear, a place that was once a village and now forms part of the throbbing Sunderland metropolis, but Washington, District of Columbia.

“World’s most powerful city honours Sunderland,” says the Times’s headline. Yesterday in an historic meeting at the British Embassy in America, an Agreement of Friendship was signed between the two places.

As Fraser Kemp, Labour MP for Houghton and Washington East, tells the paper, “a formal relationship between the greatest city in the world and the most powerful” has been stuck.

The pair are now twinned, in a way that Danny DeVito and Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger were once twinned on film. (If Mr Kemp is looking in, Sunderland is stubby guy on the left).

Why this should have occurred is the cause of much civic pride in the north-east. To be brief, it seems that American founding father George Washington’s ancestors hailed from a village on the outskirts of Sunderland. And… And nothing. That’s enough for the Americans who cling onto any history they can get their hands on.

But while the US gets heritage, what does Sunderland get out of it? Bob Symonds, the leader of Sunderland City Council, explains: “There is a lot of be gained from this link, not only in what we can learn from our friends in Washington, but what they can learn from us.”

Indeed, this is a cultural exchange. As the Times says, Washington is one of America’s most dangerous cities. The paper says it is nicknamed America’s “Murder Capital”. Sunderland’s murder and gun crime rates are below average for the UK.

But with hard work and committee meetings, things can change. Sunderland can become every bit as dangerous and urban as Washington. Their city status demands it…

Posted: 21st, June 2006 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink