Plans for South Tyneside’s new library, The Word, have stuttered just weeks before it is due to open.
South Tyneside Council has revised its plans for the rooftop terrace of The Word, National Centre for the Written Word.
The fourth floor rooftop area of the cultural venue in South Shields will be developed as additional exhibition and event space.
It was originally planned to a have restaurant in the space.
But council bosses now say that an expanded exhibition, event and conference area would maximise the centre’s appeal as a national cultural institution.
The new space will host events such as authors’ talks and debates on key issues, film clubs and regular performance nights including traditional songs, comedy and poetry slams.
The Word, which is expected to attract an estimated 500,000 visitors a year, is set to open to the public on Saturday, October 22.
A programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks, performances, creative sessions and events has been planned for the opening week.
The venue will still have a ground floor café which will offer light meals and other refreshments.
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of the council with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: “The Word will be a wonderful resource for local residents but we are confident that it will also draw people from across the region and indeed, the country.
“With this in mind, we decided to expand our exhibition and events offer and boost The Word’s appeal as a national cultural venue.
“The additional space will open up opportunities for an exciting and varied activity and events programme that will appeal to a broad spectrum of people.
“For example, best-selling crime writer Ann Cleeves, whose novels have been adapted for TV’s Vera and Shetland, will be coming to hold an author’s talk about her new book next year.”
The Word’s range of facilities will include a computer gaming area, a FabLab with 3D printers and vinyl and laser cutters, digitised archives, meeting rooms, children’s immersive storytelling area, an OpenZone IT suite and café.
Its launch exhibition will pay tribute to world-famous film director Sir Ridley Scott, who was born in the town.
The display, in the Port of Tyne exhibition space, will showcase six of his most well-known movies: Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Robin Hood, Thelma and Louise and The Martian.
Alongside Ridley Scott, Lost Dialects will take look at the lost language of the North East and its industries.
The Word is supported by Arts Council England, Port of Tyne and BT.
Councillor welcomes plans for exhibition space at Word
South Tyneside’s only opposition councillor has welcomed plans to swap a rooftop restaurant for an exhibition space.
Coun Lee Hughes, a Putting People First representative for the Bede ward, said he was pleased with the council’s plans to scrap the rooftop restaurant at new library, The Word, in South Shields, saying he felt an exhibition space was a better idea.
He said: “I wasn’t too keen on the rooftop restaurant idea anyway, but that was just personal taste.
“I really think the building is lovely and it’s been great to watch it going up. I think it’s going to bring a lot of tourists to the borough and I think the exhibition space will add to that and help bring more people here.
“I don’t know why they’ve changed the plan, but perhaps they didn’t think it was viable to have the restaurant.
“This is great news for the cafes in the market place though as they’ll now benefit more from the visitors.”
Construction of The Word, the North East Centre for the Written Word, is the first phase of the wider redevelopment of South Shields town centre as part of the council’s £100million 365 masterplan.
The 365 plan aims to transform the town, increasing the shopping and leisure on offer as well as improving the way people travel to, from and around town.
The Word will provide a library and interactive exhibition space, which aims to not only provide a home for local writing talent, but become a real community hub for the people of South Tyneside and the visitors it hopes to attract from around the country.