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A Phenomenal First Year for The Word

Award winning South Tyneside cultural venue The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, is celebrating a phenomenal first year.

Since opening last October, The Word in South Shields has exceeded all expectations attracting almost 400,000 visitors, winning 12 top industry awards including the region's Best Public Service Building, Project of the Year and a RIBA National Award as well as playing host to a number of leading authors.

And to celebrate the special occasion, South Tyneside Council has lined up an exciting programme of events for the attraction's first anniversary weekend (Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October).

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "It has been a remarkable first year for The Word.

"To be winning so many key awards, attracting acclaimed authors and welcoming an incredible number of people is a tremendous achievement and a real reflection of the efforts being made to make this iconic building a world class attraction for residents and visitors.

"The Word is so much more than a library. It is a major new cultural venue and an important resource for the people of South Tyneside, which is brimming with exciting new experiences and facilities for all."

The striking state-of-the-art circular building incorporates impressive exhibition and digital media spaces and a FabLab complete with 3D printers, vinyl and laser cutters, which have become popular with local businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs and well-used by local schoolchildren. It also features digitised archives, StoryWorld for immersive children's storytelling and OpenZone IT suite.

Sir Ridley Scott: Past, Present and Future Visionary, the venue's opening exhibition, was one of the attraction's major draws with 97,000 visitors during its six month run.

The exhibition celebrated the life and career of South Shields-born Sir Ridley Scott - one of the world's most successful and famous film directors. Sir Ridley said he was 'proud and humbled' to be honoured with an exhibition in his home town.

The Word's second major exhibition, 'Shiver Me Timbers: Pirates on a page, stage and screen', opened in May, and has already welcomed over 75,000 visitors.

Latest figures also show that visitors to The Word have donated more than 2,000 words to the venue's Lost Dialects exhibition - a celebration of words that are slowly disappearing from everyday conversations. The Word aims to collate the world's largest bank of lost words.

Novelist, screen writer and comedian, David Baddiel and Ann Cleeves, bestselling author of the Vera and Shetland novels, are among the literary stars to have visited the venue alongside many other writers, poets and playwrights inspiring people with their talks, interactive workshops and projects.

David Baddiel said: "Having a space like StoryWorld where children are literally immersed in the pages of a book is fantastic." Ann Cleeves added: "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."

In May, The Word hosted its first ever WRITE Festival celebrating the Written Word in all its forms with 21 workshops and performances for new, aspiring and established writers.

David Baldacci, Jason Cook, Val McDermid, Michael Chaplin, Tom Kelly, Chris Brookmyre, Mark Billingham, Kate Fox, Celia Bryce, Nancy Revell are just some of the national and internationally renowned writers and poets to have visited The Word. Writers in Residence commissions have also included a comic, short stories and poetry about The Word and its people.

Councillor Malcolm said: "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 that many visitors will return to The Word time and time again."

Hailed as a library for the 21st century, The Word has seen new library memberships grow by a staggering 176 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year when the town centre library was based in Prince Georg Square.

Located at South Shields Market Place, The Word also boasts meeting rooms, a café, gift Shop @ The Word, Visitor Information Centre and a rooftop terrace providing stunning views over the River Tyne.

The attraction has also been named as one of only six libraries in the UK to be included in the International Federation of Library Associations list of '1001 libraries to see before you die'.

For further information about The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, including the first anniversary programme of events, call (0191) 427 1818, visit follow on social media @theword_uk or or pop in for a brochure.

Notes to editors:

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, in South Tyneside is supported by Arts Council England, Port of Tyne, BT, Mirabaud, Colmans Seafood Temple and JP Morgan. It 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.

Successes in the first year include:

  • Almost 400,000 visitors;
  • 12 regional and national awards including:
    • Living North Awards - Best Regeneration or Restoration,
    • Mixology North Awards - Public Sector Interiors Project of the Year,
    • LABC Northern Awards - Best Public Service Building,
    • RICS North East Awards - Tourism & Leisure;
    • RICS North East Awards - Design through Innovation,
    • RICS North East Awards - Community Benefit,
    • RICS North East Awards - Project of the Year,
    • RIBA North East Award,
    • RIBA North East Project of the Year,
    • Constructing Excellence North East Awards - Value Award,
    • RIBA National Award,
    • CIAT Award for excellence in Architectural Technology.
  • The Port of Tyne exhibition space has welcomed more than 172,000 visitors;
  • More than 97,000 people visited the opening exhibition Sir Ridley Scott: Past Present and Future Visionary;
  • Over 2,000 words donated to the Lost Dialect exhibition which celebrates words that are slowly disappearing from everyday conversations;
  • More than 65,000 visitors to Shop@the Word, buying 1,200 postcards, 2,500 cards and a range of items from over 40 local artists, crafters and photographers;
  • The Word has hosted more than 300 events including author talks, writers workshops, storytelling, digital media sessions, poetry slams, performances and much more;
  • Nearly 5,000 tickets booked for events and workshops;
  • New library memberships have increased by 176 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year. New memberships among people aged 65 and over have risen by a staggering 533 per cent. Junior memberships are up by 162 per cent;
  • Borrowing has also increased with 44,000 more books issued. Borrowing among teenagers has risen by 220 per cent and junior loans are up by 88 per cent;
  • More than 4,220 schoolchildren (Years 1-6) have taken part in OpenZone led sessions, accessing new digital technologies, the Media Studio and FabLab;
  • The Media Studio has supported the creation of 65 films on a variety of topics;
  • FabLab one of only ten facilities nationwide offering state-of-the-art laser, vinyl and 3D printer technology;
  • FabLab has hosted almost 200 workshops for adults and young people to design and manufacture a range of objects;
  • Nearly 600 school pupils have used FabLab during their visit to OpenZone@ The Word.


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