Budding artists of all ages are encouraged to pick up a paintbrush and get involved with a new initiative launching in Sunderland.

Sunderland BID has been commissioned by Sunderland City Council and is working with The Art Room Sunderland to introduce benches across the city centre, to urge people to take time out of their day to relax and reconnect with others.

And organisers are calling on creative types to help add a splash of colour to the front and back panels of the 12 benches, by submitting a design for the artwork that will be on display across the city.

There will be another opportunity to get involved with the project during a series of free painting workshops, which will take place throughout August and early September.

The chosen sketches will be pre-drawn onto the 24 panels for the sessions, so groups of all skillsets can join in to bring the designs to life.

Councillor Linda Williams, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: “Over the course of the pandemic many people have missed out on socialising and suffered loneliness as a result, so these benches will be a fantastic way to help people connect with each other and enjoy a chat while they are out and about in the city centre.

“It’s fantastic to see that these benches will not only provide a place for people to talk, but also add some colour to the city’s streets, and having them designed and painted by Sunderland residents will make them unique and something we can all take pride in. I look forward to seeing the finished designs.”

Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive at Sunderland BID, believes the project has fantastic potential.

“The last year has really taught us the importance of taking time out to engage with those around us and this is our goal with the benches,” she said.

“We know there are a lot of creative people in the city and it’s an excellent opportunity to get involved with something that will benefit the whole community by adding some colour into our city spaces.

“Along with our other summer activities, the workshops are a great way to keep little ones entertained during the school holidays and we hope people will make the trip to come and see the finished product as they’re sure to be a talking point.”

An artist will be on hand during the workshops to help with painting techniques and all materials, including aprons, will be provided.

Designs and ideas should be emailed to artbenches2021@hotmail.com by 31 July.

Painting workshops can be booked for a bubble of four people at either 10am, 11am or 1pm and free tickets can be booked via www.ticketsource.co.uk/theartroomsunderland