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Silver service for region’s heritage

Helen Pailing heap challenge

National Heap Challenge

Photo by Rod Morris.

National Heap Challenge

Photo by Rod Morris. 

Sunderland students and graduates joined with glass artist Matt Durran for the Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge, bringing together recycling and art. The results of the event were temporarily installed inside the historic Roker Pier tunnel and lighthouse.

The Glass Heap Challenge was funded by the Silver Fund, created to give students studying at the University of Sunderland unique opportunities they would not otherwise have the chance to enjoy.  The fund has supported dozens of students’ creative ideas – from installing equipment that allowed media students to set up their own DJ Society to creating a hiking club; created for students who are not interested in traditional sport but want to stay fit and see some of our beautiful region.

The Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge took place earlier this year at the Roker Pods on Marine Walk, and gave the public the chance to watch artists and makers explore the creative potential of salvaged glass and clay from National Glass Centre.

On the day, small teams were formed and worked together to make artwork utilising salvaged glass and clay from National Glass Centre. The public could watch demos including: remelting of glass and glass blowing in a portable furnace (made from an old ceramic kiln), seaweed from the beach used in a raku firing of ceramics, re-crafted waste glass into new works of art, salvaged glass reworked using flameworking and experimental electronics with waste glass.

The Challenge was originally inspired by figures which show that for the first time in its manufacturing history, the production of glass has reached a tipping point. Globally, there is now enough waste glass in circulation to make it completely unnecessary to mine raw materials. The Glass Heap Challenges were created by Matt Durran to show that we can avoid adding to the heaps of waste glass designated ‘low value’ and stockpiled across our planet, and we can even reduce the amount of waste we already have.

Helen Pailing, who is studying for her PhD in ‘Recrafting Waste’, led the project for the University of Sunderland with 15 other Sunderland glass and ceramics students, staff and industry professionals.

She says: “There is often excess material produced when working with glass and clay, and we’re keen to show what can be made out of these remnants.

”The event was a great success and everyone enjoyed taking part. Installing the artworks in Roker Pier tunnel and lighthouse was a very special experience for those involved.”

The event was such as success that the University and Roker Lighthouse Trust are run a similar event again next year.

Helen added: “Hopefully this has been a catalyst for an annual event celebrating creative ways to reuse waste materials.”

She concluded: "I would like to say a huge thank you to the donors and the committee for seeing the value in organising an event like this. It was a great success and all that took part have said how much they enjoyed it. I can’t deny that it was a challenge to organise given the relatively short turnaround. The risk assessment were time consuming but I did get lots of help from Tim Betterton and Lisa Scorer. Inge Panneels provided lots of support too and technical assistance by Steve Beardsell was a vital part of the day. Thank you once again!"

The Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge is funded by the University of Sunderland Development Trust Silver Fund with support from AHRC CDT and Heritage Lottery Fund (Roker Pier & Lighthouse Project).

To find out more about tours of Roker Pier and Lighthouse go to:



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