Roker Pier is a familiar landmark to anyone from Sunderland and beyond and there’s few of us who haven’t taken a snap of it at one time. But did you know that it is also popular location in literature, both in the stories themselves and featuring on the cover of best-selling novels?
Guest blog post from Sunderland author Alan Parkinson
Despite hailing from Northampton, prolific author Rita Bradshaw used Roker Pier as the cover image for her hugely popular historical romance novel, Dancing In The Moonlight. Set in Sunderland, her rags to riches tale captures the town as it was back in the day and any Mackems will pick up on the many local references.
Sunderland author Glenda Young, a volunteer at Roker Pier, had a short story inspired by the lighthouse, The Sound Of The Foghorn, published in The People’s Friend magazine in 2016. You can read about her story and the accompanying artwork here.
Alice in Sunderland, the fantastic graphic novel by Bryan Talbot wouldn’t be complete without featuring Roker Lighthouse. The book explores the links between Lewis Carroll and the Sunderland area, with wider themes of history, myth and storytelling. The lighthouse only appears briefly but can be found on page 107 if you would like to have a look.
I’m one of the many people getting excited about the upcoming tours of Roker Lighthouse, but I have a vested interest. The pier and lighthouse made an appearance in my first two novels, Leg It and Idle Threats. Having never seen inside, I used a little artistic licence and made the lighthouse into a home for one of the characters. I’m sure my readers will be as keen as me to see how the reality matches up with the fiction.
I also had a rather unfortunate mishap when using the lighthouse on one of the earlier covers of Leg It. The cover was put onto t-shirts and has been seen as far away as Florida and Mexico. I won’t post it on here but I’m sure you could find it if you would like to have a laugh at my expense!
The younger generation also use the lighthouse in their tales with it featuring alongside Gareth Bale in the unlikely tale of the stolen World Cup in an upcoming book, Southwick to Seaburn, from the young people of Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project (SNYP). Produced to coincide with this year’s Summer Streets Festival and Tall Ships Race, it’s one to look out for.
With a landmark that features so heavily in our lives, it is no wonder that Roker Pier is the inspiration for many a tale and book cover. I know that I will have missed many examples; if you have a favourite, please let us know.
By Alan Parkinson.
Image of Rita Bradshaw's book courtesy of Pan MacMillan publisher.