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Cultural luminaries share plans for city's new visitor attraction

October 5, 2021

Erik use

Cultural luminaries share plans for city's new visitor attraction

As the UK marks Libraries Week, Sunderland prepares for arrival of world-class library

A WORLD class line-up of industry leaders have shared insight and plans for Sunderland's ambitious Culture House as part of a global conference focused on the city. 

The new 'community living room', which is planned as part of the transformational Riverside Sunderland development, has attracted the attention of luminaries in culture, art and the built environment after Sunderland staged its first Global Libraries Conference to showcase its plans. 

The conference explored best-in-class examples of similar venues as close-to-home as Worcester and far afield as Finland and Denmark with attendees including some of the most influential people in the worlds of culture and the arts, comprising Arts Council England's Director of libraries as well as experts in digital and immersive technologies which create a super-modern environment. 

Marie Oestergaard speaks at Culture House Global Libraries Conference about their world-leading library and what it's brought to the city of Aarhus

The expert panel - which came together virtually - gave the council the chance to invite local partners and staff to continue to shape plans for Culture House, which is set to open its doors by 2024, taking feedback on board and learning from the people and organisations attending to ensure the venue adds maximum impact to the city when it is completed.

Culture House is being supported by the Government's Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) and stands in a 80,000sq ft public building at the heart of the regeneration programme transforming the city centre, overlooking Keel Square.  It will comprise a library, where residents can access books and resources, meeting spaces, digital and immersive environments to entertain and educate, and exhibition and events space for arts, plays and events.

Councillor Linda Williams, Vibrant City Cabinet Member, said: "We have huge ambitions for Culture House and what it will bring to the city.  We want it to be a showcase - a window to Sunderland - harnessing the vibrancy, energy and excitement of the place, and including a strong focus on digital too, as a core part of our vision for the city. 

"This conference was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our vision for Culture House as our new city library with influential people who have shared valuable insight that will help us shape and refine our plans and ensure that this is a place that delivers maximum advantage to our residents, in respect of their health, wellbeing and enjoyment of Sunderland.  We're thrilled to have been able to engage with experts in their field to help make Culture House a huge success."

The council is aiming to ensure Culture House is the UK's most engaging library - a thoroughly modern take with a focus on digital and immersion including augmented and virtual reality to create a 21st Century place to learn, explore and enjoy right in the heart of the city

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said the venue was a significant component in the council's vision to make Sunderland a 'magnet city' where people want to live, work and play.

"We're determined that the city centre has an excellent cultural and leisure offer, which - combined with the retail offer and increasingly vibrant cafes, restaurants and eateries - will bring more people to the city and give us all a city centre we can be proud of.  Culture House will be an amazing city library for our residents and visitors."

The Global Libraries Conference was organised by the council in partnership with Counterculture, which works with a range of cultural, educational and creative organisations across the UK to plan, manage and develop their buildings and services

Ciara Eastell

Ciara Eastell OBE, an associate who heads up the Counterculture team working on Culture House said: "It's been a huge pleasure to work on the Culture House project and to curate the programme for this Global Libraries Conference.  Our speakers brought a huge range of experience and insight which will inform the future development of Culture House.  Thanks to our colleagues from around the world for joining us for such an inspiring day.  The conference has really put Culture House on the global map as an inspiring and pioneering initiative."

Erik Boekesteijn from the National Library of the Netherlands, who co-hosted the conference, said: "It was an amazing conference, with almost too much great content to take in. 

"The role of Culture House as a place to keep stories, share stories and make new stories together with the citizens of Sunderland gave all the attendees so much energy.  I cannot wait to see the next steps"

Culture House is part of a raft of development projects in the Riverside Sunderland area that, together, aim to double the residential population in the city centre and increase employment by 50 per cent.


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