It was a bitter sweet moment when I had to turn down an invitation to the official launch of The Word in South Shields. I've watched the building works with fascination so to find out I wouldn't be in the country for launch day was sad news! Never fear Michelle from Word Struck was happy to be my eyes and ears for the day.
So here's what she had to say .....
Wow was the word on many lips and reflected in the expressions of many lucky enough to attend the official opening of The Word – The National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields, just a few days before it opens to the public.
The Word is the new home for library services and the South Shields local history archive, but it’s so much more than that. You will find 72,000 books here, ranging from children’s to adult fiction, reference to local history. But as you take a look around, you’ll also see public access computers, a vibrant creative maker space with 3D printers, giant touch screen tablets and telescopes that take in even closer views over the river.
There is plenty for all ages to discover and explore - from the colourful and easily accessible children’s books, to a space dedicated to the North East dialect, where you can test your knowledge of words such as ‘oxters’ and ‘claggy’.
On the ground floor, a special exhibition space celebrates South Shields born Ridley Scott and how he tells stories through film. It features replicas, costumes and movie clips from some of his most famous work, including Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and The Martian. Looking through the programme of events on The Word’s website, there’s plenty to keep younger ones engaged through the half-term holidays, including workshops to make comic books, spooky Halloween crafts, Lego model building and even the chance to learn how to control a Mars Rover.At a time when many essential services are under threat of cuts and closures, there may be questions over whether spending so much money on a library, arts and cultural centre is a good investment. As part of the opening ceremony, local writer Ann Cleves spoke passionately about how grateful she is to local libraries that supported her books being published. Thanks to those books, the television series Vera is now available in 130 countries and attracting visitors from the USA and China to visit locations featured, including South Shields. South Tyneside Council Leader, Iain Malcolm also celebrated the vision that brought The Word into being, speaking of it as a place for the future where young people can keep pace with technological change, while appreciating the rich cultural history of South Tyneside.
The official opening was all about welcoming this great new resource, and its popularity will need to be road tested with families, the local community and visitors. But judging from the enthusiastic response of the school children in the library spaces, it was proving to be a hit.
With so much to offer for old and young, locals and visitors, those interested in the future and those exploring the past, it deserves to be well used and become a well loved treasure.
The Word opens to the public on Saturday 22 October