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Word wows the crowds

People stream through the doors on opening day

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, welcomed almost 21,000 visitors in its first week.

The stunning cultural venue attracted 4,000 people on its opening day alone, with queues stretching right around South Shields' Market Place before the doors opened.

More than 6,700 books were issued in the first week- almost double the number issued in the same period last year in the Central Library. There were 141 new library borrowers and computer use increased by more than 250%.

Marrying tradition with technology, the multi-million pound centre offers an impressive range of facilities including library and exhibition space, a computer gaming area, a FabLab with 3D printers, vinyl and laser cutters, digitised archives, meeting rooms, children's immersive storytelling area, OpenZone IT suite and a café.

It is designed to appeal to all age groups, offering more than 72,000 books - 9,000 of them new - as well as a feast of interactive activities and experiences.

The venue will host a rolling programme of high profile exhibitions, events and writers in residence to celebrate the written word in all its forms to educate, inspire and entertain.

Visitors described the centre as 'amazing'; 'a lovely public space'; 'a fantastic addition to the town centre'; 'a beautiful venue' and 'a superb new library space'. They complimented the exhibitions; the wide selection of facilities and activities on offer for all age groups and the stunning views over the River Tyne.

They were impressed with the spectacular Ridley Scott exhibition - particularly the seven-feet-high replica alien prop - and more than 2,500 donated their favourite regional words to the Lost Dialects exhibition.

The opening week's activity programme proved popular, with events such as Hey Presto! and Hoots Spell Party selling out.

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We always knew The Word was going to be a fantastic facility for both local residents and visitors from further afield but it exceeded all expectations in its opening week and we're delighted with how well it has been received.

"The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the figures speak for themselves.

"We worked hard to make sure the venue is welcoming and inclusive to everyone; we want The Word to be valued by young and old alike and I think we've achieved that.

"We're particularly pleased with the reactions from children and young people who definitely seem to approve of the building's 'cool' factor!"

The opening of the striking circular building marks the end of the first phase of the £100m South Shields 365 regeneration masterplan being delivered by South Tyneside Council and its partner Muse Developments.

Cllr Malcolm added: "We're immensely proud of The Word and this is just the start of an incredible journey for South Shields town centre.

"Over the next few years we will see a new transport interchange, cinema, restaurants and a new retail offering.

"Linked with the Foreshore, we hope all these new attractions encourage people to spend more time in the town centre."

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