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As if you need telling – The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, has been one of the North East’s biggest success stories since it opened in 2016. Now, as it gears up for its next big exhibition. We explore what’s in store for the future.
No matter how much the world around us changes technologically, there will always be a place for the written word. Sure, you can gorge yourself on Netflix and spend untold hours trying to get your team into the Champions League on Football Manager, but the written word has its own unique and unshakeable grasp on our imaginations. That said, the success of The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, has taken even its biggest fans by surprise, “We are extremely delighted with the success of The Word, says Councillor lain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council. “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.”
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.
And they have: more than 97,000 people came to see The Word’s blockbuster opening exhibition, Sir Ridley Scott: Past, Present and Future Visionary, and in the first six months more than 220,000 have visited the building in total. The next exhibition, Shiver Me Timbers, looks set to continue that success. Who could possibly resist a free exhibition about how pirates have been represented on page, stage and screen?
Naturally, Captain Pugwash will be involved, as well as the likes of Robinson Crusoe, Peter Pan, both Pirates of Penzance and of the Caribbean-look out for the galleon, where life on board a pirate ship is brought alive. And don’t miss the specially designed exhibition pod where an immersive storm of sound, light and film transform it into rough seas and big swells. Other events are coming too. The Write Festival, as its name suggests, is a celebration of writing across five days from 2I-25 June 2017, and will feature writers like acclaimed comedian Jason Cook, stand-up poet Kate Fox, crime writers Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre and playwright and screenwriter Michael Chaplin, along with many more.
Beyond all that, there are the permanent displays which make up The Word. Interactivity is at the heart of everything. StoryWorld is an immersive storytelling experience which incorporates sound and visual projections; you can jump on a 3D printer or vinyl or laser cutter in the FabLab; and there are absolutely loads of digital facilities from state-of-the-art IT suites to a media studio. Dig deep into our collective past with Lost Dialects, which celebrates and preserves the North East’s unique way of expressing itself with words once familiar in shipyards, mines, pubs and parlours across the region, or dive into Michael Chaplin’s Tyne Voyages exhibition which tells amazing true stories of the people who’ve navigated the Tyne over the last 2,000 years.
On top of that, library membership in the area has gone up by more than 1,000 percent. The Word isn’t just changing the options open to parents looking for something fresh and rewarding to do with their children, or for culture vultures who want a new hangout – it’s changing the very culture of South Shields itself.
Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera and Shetland series, is a big fan. “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, she says.
Libraries are a haven and a refuge for all, a place to explore stories, words and experiences. How wonderful that The Word has proved to be all this and more for the community in South Shields.
Ann, David Baldacci and David Baddiel have already spoken at The Word, as part of their high-profile author’s talks. Many more authors, including Val McDermott, will speak in the coming months.
The success of The Word, which is also home to the area’s visitor information centre, has been recognised with awards as well as footfall. The building itself has attracted widespread critical praise: it’s already won Best Public Service Building at the Local Authority Building Control Awards, four awards from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and a Living North Award for Best Regeneration or Restoration Project.
“To be winning six awards in as many months is a tremendous achievement for The Word, Councillor Malcolm says, “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.
“This light airy, and frankly quite gorgeous £16m building is the centrepiece of the £100m regeneration of South Shields.”
Iconic is the word. This light airy, and frankly quite gorgeous £16m building is the centrepiece of the £100m regeneration of South Shields and it looks to be worth every penny. If you can stop yourself gawping at the building itself, then there are brilliant views of the Tyne from The Lens viewing platforms and the top floor too.
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, says Councillor Malcolm. “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 further.
You can find The Word, National Centre for the Written Word at Market Place, South Shields, NE33 1JF – approximately 15 minutes walk from our bed and breakfast accommodation.
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