Community leaders in South Tyneside are delighted with the response they have already received from members of the public - both inside and outside the borough - to a new cultural strategy document they have produced.
More than 4,000 copies of Catch The Spirit - a 48-page brochure outlining cultural proposals for South Tyneside until 2008 - have already been picked up by individuals and community groups.
Barbara Hughes, Executive Director Lifelong Learning and Leisure, said: "Although the official launch of the strategy document does not take place until April individuals and groups are now being asked to comment. The response so far has been impressive. It shows that local people have a great pride in their culture. They really can help to shape their future."
More than 1,000 people in the borough, representing a wide diversity of interests throughout South Tyneside, have helped to shape the strategy. The Council, arts and cultural organisations, community and voluntary groups and heritage and sporting bodies have all been involved.
Councillor Ron Reynolds, Lead member for Lifelong Learning and Leisure, said: "We would like to hear from anyone with ideas about how to make South Tyneside a better place for residents and visitors. It is all about getting people involved in South Tyneside's leisure and cultural life."
The Council's policy officers in Lifelong Learning and Leisure are co-ordinating the responses. They have received hundreds of emails and telephone calls as well as letters, not just from people within the borough but from throughout the region and former South Tynesiders worldwide. The Council website has recorded more than 27,000 hits since the beginning of January.
The commonest response has been for the new cultural strategy to capitalise on the borough's beautiful coastline and riverside as well as sites of historic importance like Bede's World in Jarrow and Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.
Councillor Reynolds added: "We want an input from people of all age groups. We are particularly pleased young people are participating enthusiastically, and we intend to produce a young person's document based on their feedback."
As well as comments, new ideas for Catch The Spirit are also welcomed. The document can be obtained from libraries, leisure centres and other attractions in South Tyneside or by telephoning Richard Barber or Heather Walton on 424 7850. Large print, audiotape, Braille versions and other language translations are available on request. It can also be viewed on-line at http://www.southtyneside.info/search/document_view.asp?mode=8&pk_document=711