Dudley in glass of its own

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Hanging from trees and artfully arranged alongside an industrial canal, dramatic glass sculptures have transformed an industrial corner of the West Midlands.

Many were fashioned by students at Dudley college as part of the area's first international glass festival. Extraordinary creations include a shoal of swimming fish, a giant heart suspended from a tree, a teardrop and a sunburst.

The festival, organised by tutor Denise Hunt, has drawn eminent glass artists and academics from around the world. Its focal point has been a conference discussing topics ranging from the first 5,000 years of cast glass to the therapeutic benefits of glass-working for young people.

The festival celebrated the town's growth into an international centre for glass artists. It involved local museums, students from the University of Wolverhampton and from Ruskin Glass Centre, where artists work as educators alongside young people with autism and asperger syndrome. Glass-making on a big scale, once a staple Black Country industry, has experienced a sharp decline. But Dudley is striving to re-invent itself.

"The festival has been like the World Cup coming here," said Ms Hunt. But few of her students are either local or fresh from school. "They come from all over the world," she said. "A lot are in their 20s and 30s, people seeking a career change."

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