With just one week to go until Sunderland hosts the UK’s largest free family festival, organisers have issued top tips for visitors.
From 10-14 July, more than 50 ships from around the world will form the highlight of The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018. And, with around 1.5m people expected to visit the city for a five-day festival of music, circus, theatre and entertainment, planning is essential to make the most of the event. Activities will be spread across four event zones; the Port of Sunderland (Zone A), the Town Moor and East End (Zone B), St Peter’s Riverside (Zone C) and Roker and Seaburn Seafront (Zone 4).
Plan your travel in advance, as roads and public transport are likely to be busy. Book your car parking now and save money. Five park and ride sites are available, plus Park and Walk, Blue Badge and Premium Parking close to the event zone. There will be queues at busy periods, such as at end of each day - and drivers are urged to make sure they are at the correct pick-up point for their relevant car park.
Motorists are advised to listen for traffic updates on BBC Newcastle 95.4FM and Sun FM on 103.4FM.
The event covers a large area and it’s expected it to be very busy, so expect some queues. Appropriate clothing and footwear is recommended and visitors are also advised to bring sunscreen and water.
Event stewards will be carrying out random bag searches, so please leave big bags at home.Dogs, except for assistance dogs, are not permitted at Event Zone A but well-behaved dogs, on a lead, are allowed at Event Zones B and C.
To help people find their way around the event site, a free visitor map will be handed out by friendly Event Makers. An official Souvenir Event Guide and official merchandise can be bought at signposted trailers.
Visiting the ships
Many of the spectacular Tall Ships will be open for free visitor access during the event. Visitors can keep an eye on social media for opening times, and each ship will also display an information board with timings on. The Captains and crew will be on board to show visitors around.
Disabled visitors and those with mobility problems are advised to head to the Class A ship, Lord Nelson, at QE2 Berth at the South of Hudson Dock in the Port.
This British ship is the only vessel suitable for wheelchair users. It has flat, wide decks and powered lifts, along with a speaking compass and bright track radar, induction loop and vibrator alarms.
The ships won’t be open to visitors on Saturday 14 July, as they will be preparing to leave their berths and start the races.
Facilities on site
All event zones will have toilets, information points, Lost Persons points, first aid, food and drink stall and merchandise stands. Event Makers, in lime green t-shirts, and event stewards will also be in every zone to provide help and advice.
In addition, accessible toilets can be found across the site and National Glass Centre, at Event Zone C, has an adult changing facility, as does Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens at the City Centre.
Fireworks and pyrotechnics
There are short fireworks displays at 9.30pm on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 July, from the East side of the Port. The best viewing points are in the port.
Pyrotechnics will also be part of the artistic performance by Cirque Bijou, taking place at 9.30pm on Friday 13 July. This high-wire walk will take place over the river and up to the Wearmouth Bridge. This is best viewed from Event Zone C.
Shows, parades, performances and activities
As well as the ships, there is a whole host of things to see and do as part of the event. Highlights include a huge observation wheel, Georgian Festival, two stages packed with school choirs, brass bands, local bands and more, spectacular circus and dance performances, a market, funfair and childrens activities and more. For details of what’s on when visit www.tallshipssunderland.com/programme
“With more than 200 performances, over 50 sailing ships and everything from craft markets to heritage festivals, there is a vast amount to see and do,” said Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture.
“We want everyone who visits to have a brilliant time and a bit of forward planning, not to mention flat, comfortable shoes, will make all the difference “.
For full details of the event programme and more information about The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018, visit www.tallshipssunderland.com follow on Twitter @TallShipsSund or Facebook at: Tall Ships Races Sunderland.
The event schedule for The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018:
Wednesday 11 July - the ships will lower their gangways to visitors.
Thursday 12 July - the programme of culture and entertainment continues when a Crew Parade will weave through the city centre, bringing a carnival atmosphere to the streets, followed by a prize-giving ceremony.
Friday 13 July - Cirque Bijou will perform and local sail trainees taking part in the Races will arrive to join their ships.
Saturday 14 July - the ships will take part in a spectacular Parade of Sail, past the coastal resorts of Roker and Seaburn, with onshore entertainment continuing well into the evening.