The building, a unique partnership between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College was developed after all three pooled resources to jointly provide the country’s first wholly integrated public, university and college library designed for the internet age - totally wi-fi enabled and with scores of available ICT, along with state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities.
The venue is a magnet for members of the public and students and more than one million items have been borrowed over the three years with other visitors attending exhibitions and events.
The outdoor Big Screen has also proved a winner for the town. More than 2,000 people enjoyed this summer’s free sci-fi season and artists and filmmakers from around the world are clamouring to have their work featured on the screen.
Since The Forum Southend-on-Sea opened there have been more than 70,000 logins in the University’s high-tech Learning Hub and South Essex College students have borrowed more than 40,000 books.
Cllr Ann Holland, Executive Cllr for Culture, says: “All of the partners are immensely proud of The Forum Southend-on-Sea’s resounding success. As well as being an attractive asset for the town and the student community, it has drawn visitors from around the world, keen to understand how this successful project works.
“Located in the town centre on the site of a former multi-story car park, this thriving joint public and academic library and learning hub serves the whole community – residents of all ages, visitors and students. Together they are all able to gain the benefits of all the enhanced and additional facilities yielded by the combined resources of the three institutions.
“This is why it offers such advantages to the whole borough and further afield too – clearly showing how much of a community benefit it is. It is also a focus for culture as it is home to Focal Point Gallery, and, among other activities, the Big Screen outside has introduced the chance for residents and visitors to see acclaimed live broadcasts of Royal Opera Performances, ballet and sci-fi films.”
The building itself has received national and regional acclaim, being commended in the 2015 Civic Trust awards, shortlisted in the ‘Buildings that Inspire’ category of the Guardian University awards and winning the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) East of England Community Benefit category.
The building was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Kent on 2nd February 2016 where a stunning statue of Her Majesty The Queen was unveiled.