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Pupils relive legend of Spottee the cave dweller; Lantern parade in seaside park.

Byline: Tony Henderson

LEGENDS surrounding a Wearside cave dweller were revived last night as part of a seafront regeneration scheme.

A community lantern parade launched three evenings of light, sound, art installations and performance at Roker Park in Sunderland.

At the Roker by Night event, pupils from nearby Redby Primary School laid on promenade performances based on the park's Spottee's Cave.

For two weeks in August the cave will also be the focus of a film and drama project also centred on Spottee, an 18th Century figure who lived in the cave.

He is believed to have been a stranded foreign seaman who could not speak English and who set up home in the cave, living by begging and doing odd jobs for local farmers.

He earned his name from the spotted shirt he wore.

"One day he disappeared and it was believed that he died in the cave," said Sue Charnley, arts development manager based at Monkwearmouth School who is also working with six primary schools on the Spottee project.

In August actor Mark McGann will join the project, which will see film and drama performances on the Spottee legend in the cave, which can accommodate an audience of 30.

The limestone cave has been closed to the public but after safety checks it has been opened for the three-night event from last night, with archive images of Roker's history accompanied by a sound track projected on to its walls.

"We expect the opening of the cave to cause a lot of interest as many local people will remember it from their childhood when it was used as part of Sunderland Illuminations," said city council arts and creative development manager Kari Vickers.

It is now planned to use the cave in future as a classroom for visiting schools and for events.

Denny Wilson, council portfolio holder for culture, said: "This is the first in a series of events and activities we've got lined up for Roker over the next few months."

The light and sound performances tonight and tomorrow will be at 6.45pm and 7.45pm . Sunderland City Council won pounds 1m from the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment Sea Change fund which is designed to kick start economic regeneration in coastal areas through investment in culture and heritage.

With pounds 500,000 from the council, the cash will allow the delivery of the first phase of work to improve Marine Walk near Roker Park.

Meanwhile, a time capsule containing a snapshot of life in Sunderland in 2011 has been buried in Barnes Park in the city by pupils from Barnes Infant School.

Work on the 18-month redevelopment of Barnes Park started in October 2009 backed by a grant of pounds 2.4m from the Big Lottery Fund Heritage Lottery Parks for People Fund.

The park will be officially unveiled to the public on May 21.


PICTURESQUE Roker Park in Sunderland where the performances will take place
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 25, 2011
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