More than 20,000 hear The Word in South Shields

Queues at The Word on opening day.
Queues at The Word on opening day.

South Shields' new National Centre for the Written Word welcomed more than 20,000 visitors in the its first week.

The Word attracted 4,000 people on its opening day alone, with queues stretching around South Shields’ Market Place before the doors opened

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

The multi-million pound centre offers a 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 variety 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.

Reaction from visitors included ‘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 and were impressed with the spectacular Ridley Scott exhibition – particularly the seven-feet-high replica alien prop – while more than 2,500 donated their favourite regional words to the Lost Dialects exhibition.

South Tyneside Council deputy leader Coun Alan Kerr said: "We are thrilled that The Word proved so popular in its opening week and we are confident it will continue to welcome many more visitors from across the Borough, the region and beyond.

"We have kept everything that people loved about the old Central Library – wonderful books, thriving community groups, a much-loved local and family history section – and housed it all in this landmark building with a whole host of state-of-the-art facilities and activities.

"It is no wonder that both young and old have been singing its praises."

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