Pop Recs Ltd: Futureheads star Barry Hyde condemns closure of venue that hosted likes of Franz Ferdinand and James Bay

Exclusive: Futureheads frontman tells The Independent how becoming involved with shop had 'hugely positive impact' on his mental health

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Musicians including Futureheads star Barry Hyde have decried the closure of a venue that has become a “central part of the Sunderland music and arts world” over the past two years.

Pop Recs Ltd, which was set up by the award-winning band Frankie and the Heartstrings, and has hosted free gigs by acts including Franz Ferdinand and James Bay, closed its doors at the weekend after the local council sold the premises to build student flats.

Frankie and the Heartstrings drummer Dave Harper said it was a “truly sad situation” that the shop – which had grown into a community hub for artists, musicians and other creative to gather, had been shut down.

“I never saw it as a record store – it’s a community project,” Harper told The Independent.

Pop Recs was only supposed to be open for a two-week stint but the band was compelled to keep it open as increasing numbers of local people became invested in the space, setting up toddler groups, “stitch and bitch” sessions and poetry nights. It also became a place for people with mental health problems to meet and relax.

Getting involved with Pop Recs has had a “hugely positive impact” on Hyde’s mental health, the Futureheads frontman told The Independent.


Hyde, who has bipolar disorder, has been working as a private music tutor, operating from Pop Recs’ premises.

“Pop Recs has been very important to me. I was able to take a room there, set up a piano and a drum kit and crank the amp up,” he said.

“An important factor in a person’s mental health is their self-esteem. If you’re creating positive things in your town or city, that’s good for your self-esteem. There’s camaraderie between people who work at Pop Recs and the punters. It’s a lovely atmosphere,” the musician added.

The closure of the venue will leave a “huge hole”, he said.

“The quality of entertainment in the city has gone through the roof since Pop Recs opened. It is a central part of the Sunderland music and arts world and we need it back,” he added.

Harper, who said his band only discovered that the building had been sold by Sunderland City Council after spotting a post on Twitter, said the blame didn’t lie entirely with the local authority.

“It’s not just their fault,” Harper said. “The system isn’t designed to nurture original models like this. I just hope it serves as an embarrassment to society – to watch something like this disappear when it brings nothing but positives.”

Sunderland City Council's cabinet secretary, Councillor Mel Speding said the building had been made available to Pop Recs on a short-term agreement since 2013.

“It was always understood how the council had to look to a long-term use for the property and that has now been secured with its development into student accommodation.

“This is in line with council objectives to see more people living and working in the city centre and, in the interests of council tax payers in these financially challenging times for local authorities, it secures a capital receipt.

“Naturally, with the success and popularity of Pop Recs, the council and others have been looking at ways and means of continuing and securing a similar venture elsewhere in the city centre.”

Harper is adamant that this is not the end for Pop Recs and is determined to continue the legacy of the group at another location in the city.

“It’s bricks and mortar,” he said of the building.

“I’ve just been to visit another venue that could be a new place for us. I’ve dedicated two years to my life to Pop Recs and I’m not giving up on this. I’m all in on this one,” he added.

“I know for a fact Pop Recs will continue and it will be stronger than ever,” Hyde agreed.

“I want to be part of that. The work we’ve done will not amount to nothing,” he added.