South Shields’ new library and cultural venue is celebrating an incredible first year.
Since opening last October, The Word, National Centre for the Written Word attracted almost 400,000 visitors and won 12 top industry awards.
Hailed as a library for the 21st century, it has seen membership grow by a staggering 176% compared to the same period in the previous year when the town centre facility was based in Prince George Square.
Meanwhile borrowing has also increased, with 44,000 more books issued.
And the attraction has also been named as one of only six libraries in the UK to be included in the International Federation of Library Association’s list of ‘1001 libraries to see before you die’.
Coun 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 Port of Tyne exhibition space alone has welcomed more than 172,000 visitors, and the venue’s opening exhibition – Sir Ridley Scott: Past, Present and Future Visionary – 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.
In the last year, The Word has also hosted more than 300 events including author talks, writer workshops, storytelling, digital media sessions, poetry slams, performances and has seen nearly 5,000 tickets booked for events.
The state-of- the-art circular building also 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, entrepreneurs and schoolchildren.
Since it launched it has hosted almost 200 workshops for adults and young people to design and manufacture a range of objects.
Nearly 600 school pupils have also used the facility.
To mark the venue’s first anniversary, South Tyneside Council has lined up a programme of events on the weekend of Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22.
Coun 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.”
For information on the events call 0191 427 1818 or visit www.theworduk.org