Senior appointment to drive Sunderland’s Culture House

27 February 2023

A SENIOR appointment is set to drive Sunderland’s new cutting-edge culture hub as the city’s regeneration gathers pace.

Leanne Littlewood has been appointed as Culture House Director and will lead plans for the £27m new visitor attraction overlooking Keel Square.

Leanne - who has joined Sunderland City Council from Middlesbrough Council, where she held a role as Head of Culture - will devise exciting plans for Culture House, which is expected to open in early 2025.

The venue - backed by Future High Streets Funding - will offer an immersive, dynamic, digitally-powered visitor experience that will inspire and entertain people of all ages.

Though detailed plans for Culture House are yet to be drawn up, the ambition is that the new venue will be a space for the whole community to enjoy.

Leanne said: “Culture is front and centre of Sunderland’s ambitious plans for the regeneration of the city centre, and the development of this magnificent building – which will be an asset to communities across the city – presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a space that will inspire residents and visitors. 

“As someone from the region, I have watched the transformation of Sunderland from the outside over the last few years, and there’s a sense that this is a place that is on a huge journey of change and that’s so exciting to now be part of.  I am thrilled to be able to take the vision forward and create a space that all of our communities and visitors alike will enjoy for years to come.” 

Leanne has worked in the public sector for more than a decade, and in her new role, she will work with colleagues both in the cultural and city development sphere to shape Culture House, ensuring it complements the wider raft of cultural attractions in the city. 

The former Corner Flag pub and connected buildings - 275, 278-284 High Street West - standing on the southern edge of Keel Square have been cleared by contractor MGL Demolition to make way for Culture House, and a contractor is expected to be appointed over the next few weeks to begin constructing the exciting city venue imminently. 

Sunderland has historically been a place of innovation, and that skill and fortitude continue today.  Culture House will build on that, providing a space for new innovators and dreamers to be nurtured and inspired. The venue will embrace the principles of Arts Council England’s Let's Create strategy by developing a programme that is dynamic, ambitious, inclusive and environmentally responsible.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Culture House will be the jewel in the crown of the Riverside Sunderland development, a fantastic place for residents and visitors to enjoy. Leanne’s experience and passion will help us drive this forward.

“We have had tremendous feedback from residents and community groups on our plans for Culture House, so it’s brilliant that we’re taking this major step forward to deliver this significant addition to the city centre.”

Culture House will use the latest technology to inspire curiosity, creativity and connection among the 500,000 people who visit each and every year, taking their minds on a journey while their feet remain firmly in the heart of Sunderland in this landmark new public asset.

Positioned at the heart of Riverside Sunderland, Culture House will be a colourful, creative and playful space that fires imaginations and inspires new ways of thinking and living.  It will include immersive digital spaces that will enable stories to be told in exciting new ways, a Food Lab to explore new and different foods, a library for the 21st Century - a vibrant learning space where ideas come to life through digital technology, and stories explode into real life through play; plenty of spaces for community groups to come together; and creative spaces to encourage making and learning through play and activity.  

The building has been designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects and is part of an ambitious programme of development projects in the Riverside Sunderland area that, taken together, aim to double the residential population in the city centre and increase employment by 50 per cent and also fits with the city’s housing strategy, which will see 7,000 new homes built by 2030. 

To stay up to date with Riverside Sunderland developments, visit or follow @RiversideSund on social media.