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Word is spreading fast

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, has enjoyed astounding success since it opened in October.

The cultural venue has welcomed a staggering 88,000 visitors in its first two months of operation.

The website attracted almost 40,000 visits, and 867 new readers joined the library - an increase of nearly 400 per cent compared to the same period in the old Central Library.

Over 50,000 people have visited the spectacular Ridley Scott exhibition which was endorsed by the man himself. Sir Ridley said he was 'proud and humbled' to be honoured with the exhibition in his home town.

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "The Word is proving a valuable asset to the Borough as we knew it would be, and it has exceeded all our expectations.

"With such an exciting line up of events, exhibitions, workshops and performances it is no surprise than tens of thousands of people - from both within and outside the Borough - have been eager to see what's on offer.

"We're confident that many of them will become regular visitors to The Word.

"The very premise of The Word is to celebrate the written word in all its forms so we are delighted that the library has attracted so many new borrowers, with lending up among older people, juniors and teenagers.

"This is a reflection of how hard we have strived to make The Word appealing and accessible to all age groups."

Almost 10,000 books have been loaned and the number of teenage library users has shot up by 750 per cent.

The venue offers an exciting and inspirational celebration of the written word through a rolling programme of high quality exhibitions, events and workshops.

On its opening day in October people queued around South Shields' Market Place clamouring for a look inside the striking circular building.

Many of the performances, including Gothic for Girls, Hoots Spell Party, Hey Presto, Jack and the Brickstalks and Halloween in 3D were sellouts.

More than 17,500 people have visited Shop @ The Word, with prints and photographs of local scenes and handcrafted goods from local artists proving particularly popular.

The striking circular building's impressive facilities include library and exhibition space, a computer gaming area, a FabLab with 3D printers and vinyl and laser cutters, digitised archives, meeting rooms, children's immersive storytelling area, OpenZone IT suite and a café.

The Word's opening marked the end of phase one of the £100m South Shields 365 regeneration masterplan being delivered by South Tyneside Council and its partner, Muse Developments Ltd.

Work is now ongoing to bring forward the next phases of the scheme, the transport interchange and new retail and leisure development.

Councillor Malcolm added: "Of course we're delighted with the success of The Word so far and the national publicity it has attracted, but the momentum doesn't stop there.

"In the next few years we will see a new transport interchange, a cinema, restaurants and new shops.

"Our investment in the town centre will act as a catalyst for private sector investment. The Word is the centrepiece of the regeneration helping to underpin the cultural offer and adding to the visitor experience. Linked clearly with the Foreshore, it will drive footfall into the town centre and encourage visitors to stay longer."

A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) inquiry held in December will determine whether the Council can acquire the land required for the transport interchange and retail and leisure Developments.

It is anticipated that a decision will be made by the Secretary of State by April 2017. If the Council is successful, advance works, including relocation of the Post Office and Royal Mail as well as associated demolitions and site assembly, should commence shortly after. Work on the Transport Interchange will start in 2018 with completion in 2019.


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