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Investing in Sunderland’s creative industries is vital for the region’s economic growth


3 min read

It is an exciting time to be in Sunderland and the north east. Not only has the city centre seen transformational change, with massive new projects ongoing and a new train station on the way, but recent developments in the creative industries are readying a strong foundation for the region’s future economic growth.

The recent announcement of planning permission being submitted for Crown Works Studios will be a huge step forward for Sunderland and the north east’s creative and cultural industries. Over the next 10 years the studio – to be located on the banks of the River Wear – aims to bring thousands of jobs to the local community.  

The benefits of employment, opportunity and education will stretch well across the region

Crown Works Studios by FulwellCain will be one of the largest film studios in Europe, with 1.68m square feet of studio space, 20 sound stages, and world class facilities. It is a project led by Sunderland born Leo Pearlman and the partners of Fulwell 73, the producers of the immensely popular Netflix series Sunderland ‘Till I Die, which gave so many an insight into the football club at the heart of the city and its history. It is therefore great to see that they are now playing a huge part in its future. 

Crown Works Studio will breathe new life into an area of Sunderland that needs it; the proposed development will bring over 8000 jobs in various sectors, supported by thorough plans for upskilling and reskilling of the local community, forged through connections with the local university and college.

To illustrate the investment potential, the creative industries and the cultural sector make up almost £1.5bn in gross value added for the north east. In the last 12 years, there has been a 43 per cent increase in the economic value of creative industries and a 10 per cent increase in the cultural sector, shown most recently in a five-year plan by the BBC to commit £25m to the region.

The potentially massive new transformative plans for Crownworks Studio is building on an already thriving regional creative foundation. The success of Sunderland Culture has brought the city to life, with its arts outreach programmes, and despite an unsuccessful bid for the City of Culture, momentum for cultural growth has been maintained with events such as the Tall Ships Race and the Bright Lights festival drawing huge crowds.

In 2021/22, Sunderland Culture boasted attracting over 400,000 visitors to the city, hosting 4,560 school visitors, having almost 10,000 active participants and hosting 252 exhibitions, events, and performances. Sunderland Culture, with new landmarks in the city, including the Fire Station Theatre and other institutions like the Sunderland Empire Theatre, representing not only the rich history of the city but a true passion for the arts too, hosting many touring West End shows for the north east.

The potential for growth in Sunderland is clear. With a diverse array of investments such as a new train station, and retail and housing developments planned in the city centre, the future of Sunderland is looking bright. The effect of this investment will send ripples across the region.

Whilst Sunderland as a city will benefit from the studios placement on the banks of the Wear, the benefits of employment, opportunity and education will stretch well across the region at a time when new devolution settlements will bring regional communities even closer together, working as one.

Sunderland, and the north east, is truly open for business.


Julie Elliott, Labour MP for Sunderland Central

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