Reviewed by Tammy Linsell
My excursions to Wearside tend to be restricted to visiting The Stadium of Light to see my football team play away to Sunderland, so a trip to the National Glass Centre last Saturday made a pleasant change. The first surprise is that the spacious car park is free of charge and admission to the Centre likewise.
My partner and I had arranged to meet our friend Lyndsey, so as we’d arrived early we went to play on the roof while we waited for her. This isn’t as weird as it sounds. You can walk directly on to it – but be careful, it’s a glass one! If like me you have a fear of heights then this roof will keep you entertained for ages. The glass is 6cm thick and accommodates 460 people at any one time. It’s completely safe to walk, run, or jump on, and you will feel perfectly secure, that is until you look down! You’ll find yourself gazing on to the heads of folk 40 feet below as they peruse the gift shop and drink their coffee in the brassiere. Your rational mind knows that you can’t come to any harm, but your instincts tell you otherwise and staying put while you look down is harder than you imagine. It’s worth trying to overcome your fear though, because if you manage to cross over to the other side of the building to the railings the views overlooking the River Wear are tremendous.
The National Glass Centre runs many courses, exhibitions and demonstrations every day. There is seating overlooking the furnaces where you can marvel at the skill of the glass making team. Details of the times of the various demonstrations, Flame Working, Glass Blowing and Glass Lathe, can be found on their website www.nationalglasscentre.com. You can also have a go yourself but you’ll need to book first. The range of adult courses, classes, and family activities is extensive, so again check out the website. The Centre is part of the University of Sunderland and home to students studying Art and Design, Glass and Ceramics undergraduates, and postgraduate programmes.
Our friend Lyndsey told us that the last time she ate in the brasserie she had cause to complain about the service, but on this occasion it was fine. The food was enjoyable and nicely presented. I felt it was a little on the pricey side but I appreciate that we didn’t have to pay for admission or parking. The bill came to £38 for two ploughman’s lunches, a sandwich for one and a child’s meal, but this included 4 cold drinks and two hot ones.
I have already mentioned that there are different exhibitions and we enjoyed investigating these after we’d eaten. We contemplated the works of glass artists Petr Stanicky, Richard Meitner and the De La Torre Brothers. Some pieces I would have gladly displayed in my living room and others not, but all of it is interesting to see.
Many of the pieces produced in the furnaces at the Centre itself are for sale in the shop. None of it’s cheap but there’s plenty to choose from if you’re looking for a special present.
Disabled access is excellent and assistance dogs are allowed.
Open Daily 10:00 – 17:00
The National Glass Centre. Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL | 0191 515 5555