An iconic award winning cultural venue in the heart of South Shields is exceeding expectations only six months after opening.
Since opening to national acclaim last October, The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, has attracted 220,000 visitors from across the North East and beyond, won six top industry awards, played host to a number of leading authors and welcomed around 2,000 new library members.
The stunning state-of-the-art building also incorporates impressive exhibition and digital media spaces as well as a computer gaming area. There is also a FabLab with 3D printers and vinyl and laser cutters.
It also features digitised archives, meeting rooms, StoryWorld - a children's immersive storytelling area, OpenZone IT suite, a café, gift shop, Visitor Information Centre and a rooftop terrace providing stunning views over the river Tyne.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We are extremely delighted with the success of The Word. We always knew it would be a valuable asset to South Tyneside.
"The very premise of The Word is to celebrate the written word in all its forms while inspiring, educating and encouraging creativity to help develop a legacy of literary skills, especially among our young people. With such an extensive rolling programme of events and top class facilities for visitors to enjoy, we are confident The Word will do just that and many visitors will return time and time again."
The venue's opening exhibition has been one of the major draws to South Tyneside's newest attraction, welcoming up to 97,000 visitors during its six month run. Sir Ridley Scott: Past, Present and Future Visionary celebrated one of the world's most successful and famous film directors, Sir Ridley Scott, who was born in South Shields. Sir Ridley said he was 'proud and humbled' to be honoured with the exhibition in his home town.
Literary stars such as novelist, screen writer and comedian, David Baddiel and Ann Cleeves, best selling author of the Vera and Shetland novels, have both visited the building alongside many other writers, poets and playwrights who have inspired visitors with their talks, interactive activities and projects.
David Baddiel said he was impressed by The Word and described it as 'absolutely brilliant'. "To have a whole building dedicated to storytelling in all its forms is just amazing," he added.
Writer Ann Cleeves said: "The Word is a shining example of successful investment in our vital library services, but more than that, it's a lifeline for new, young, and old readers alike.
"Libraries are a haven and a refuge for all, a place to explore stories, words and experience. How wonderful that The Word has proved to be all this and more for the community in South Shields."
As well as being home to a number of local community groups, the £16m centre regularly welcomes local schoolchildren to use the latest technology in the FabLab studio and engages young visitors in immersive story sessions in StoryWorld.
Hailed as a library for the 21st century, The Word has also seen record numbers in the service with around 2,000 new memberships set up, more than 67,000 books issued to borrowers and approximately 29,000 network log ons.
More than 40,000 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 venue is the centrepiece of the first phase of the £100m South Shields 365 regeneration masterplan being delivered by South Tyneside Council and its partner Muse Developments.
Since opening its doors, the iconic structure has been named Best Public Service Building in the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Awards, Best Regeneration or Restoration Project in the Living North Awards and more recently picked up a further four Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors accolades, including Project of the Year.
The Word has also been shortlisted in the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) North East Awards, the 'Library of the Year' category at this year's British Book Industry Awards and the Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) awards. The winners of which will be announced over the coming weeks.
Councillor Malcolm said: "To be winning six awards in as many months is a tremendous achievement for The Word. This is a reflection of how hard the Council and its partners have worked to make this iconic building a world class attraction for the people of South Tyneside and beyond.
"The Word has been embraced as a beacon for the region, not only as a major new cultural venue but an important resource for the community. It is also a key element of our masterplan to transform South Shields Town Centre and make it a place people want to visit and businesses want to invest.
"While we are delighted by the success of The Word so far, we are determined to build momentum to help establish South Shields as a visitor and tourist destination."
The Word's extensive programme of events continues with the soon to be launched Shiver Me Timbers: Pirates on Page, Stage and Screen, which will celebrate pirates and their seafaring adventures through the years - from the first author to popularise them in print up to their modern day stage and screen appeal.
For further information about The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, visit www.theworduk.org
Notes to editors:
The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, in South Tyneside is supported by Arts Council England, Port of Tyne, BT and Colmans Seafood Temple.
Living North - Best Regeneration or Restoration Project (November 2016).
Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Northern Regional Awards - Best Public Service Building (April 2017)
North East Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) - Project of the Year, Community Benefit, Design Through Innovation and Tourism & Leisure (April 2017)