How Michael's Making Sunderland Unmissable

10522 SCC We All Make Sunderland 4

Pop Recs is one of Sunderland’s best-loved social and creative spots. Great food, amazing music, pop-up shops, skills sessions and a powerful sense of community.

Founded in 2013 by friends and band-mates Michael McKnight, Dan Shannon and the late Dave Harper, Pop Recs is now a vital Community Interest Company (CIC). Whether it’s aspiring young bands needing a rehearsal room, big names like Futureheads playing sold-out gigs, or a myriad of knitting groups, book clubs and makers – all are welcome. As Director, Michael, says, “We want to be a place that people want to come back to, somewhere that’s welcoming to different groups of people.” 


The place to be 

The original Pop Recs project was a one-off meeting spot set up for a couple of weeks in a disused shop. But people loved the tiny cafe venue and relished having a place to call their own, so Michael and his team decided to make it official. “We were shaped by the community and what it needed. We wanted to have a space where new things could happen.” 

So, they moved into their permanent home – a Grade II listed building and former department store, Binns. “From being somewhere where you might not go, to a place where people want to spend their time,” Michael explains, “that’s a big shift.” 


“Musicians and artists have always needed places to be, to share and congregate, and we hope we provide that.” 


A modern renaissance 

Pop Recs has grown into a hub for creativity and local talent, becoming a symbol of the region’s ongoing regeneration. “We’re part of something bigger. There’s been a lot of change in a short space of time.” 

Michael and his team now employ 10 people, run a cafe serving local produce and beer, provide a training kitchen and have expanded to open a second venue. “There’s a lot of collaboration and work happening, developing our city in a way that benefits everyone,” 

Michael comments, “The sense of purpose and community here is really strong. I’m proud to be part of that.” 


The snowball effect 

Inspiring others and creating a long-term legacy is something Michael and the Pop Recs team have worked hard to achieve. “We’re helping shine a light on the cultural scene here, to help promote talent and draw people back into the centre.” 

With an adoration of Sunderland and hopes to encourage more people to support local organisations and businesses, Michael puts it simply, “You’re investing in your city.” He goes on to explain, “You don’t have to leave Sunderland to find good food, music, culture – it’s all here and there’s more coming.” 


Feeling inspired? 

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