Published on 12 January 2023
The University of Sunderland is working with its partners Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Culture to explore vibrant new city centre locations for the National Glass Centre (NGC).
The NGC has been owned by the University since 2010 and is also home to the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) and the University’s glass and ceramics academic programmes.
In recent years, the University has needed to undertake a series of works to address structural-related issues in the NGC, including the closure of public access to the roof.
Now, a specialist external review – commissioned by the University – has concluded that a multi-million-pound investment would be required to address these issues if the NGC were to remain at its current riverside location.
As a result, the University’s Board of Governors have decided that the best way forward is to find an alternative location – or locations – for the NGC.
The University is actively exploring a variety of options which would put a reimagined National Glass Centre at the heart of Sunderland’s cultural regeneration, with the potential to reach new and larger audiences and is working with key partners, including Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Culture to establish suitable sites. Culture House is one of the sites being discussed.
For our academic work in the NGC, we have already started working with staff to carry out a thorough assessment of the equipment and facilities that would be required to support academic activity in glass and ceramics in another building and the associated cost implications. The outcome of this work will be reviewed by the University Executive, with a recommendation on next steps being made to the Board of Governors in due course.
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive said: “The University is committed, as far as it is practically possible and viable, to maintaining within the city the exhibition and display of glass art, alongside academic work in glass and ceramics. As well as undertaking internal review work on these matters, we are also in active discussion with Sunderland City Council about alternative locations for the activities currently undertaken within the NGC and NGCA. Hopefully, we will have more details to share in the coming months.
"I recognise this is an uncertain time for staff and students based at the NGC, but we need to act now, given that the University is not in a position to spend the millions of pounds required to secure the longer-term future of the current NGC building.”
Councillor Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for vibrant city, said: “Across the city we have an excellent cultural and heritage offer, and really strong partnerships through which to continue to grow and develop that offer. Plans for Culture House are beginning to take shape - an exciting major new investment now underway at the heart of the city for residents and visitors alike.
"We are working closely with the University to explore whether becoming part of Culture House provides the best opportunity for the next generation of the much-loved National Glass Centre – one of our key cultural assets - to continue to grow and thrive in Sunderland for generations to come.”
Rebecca Ball, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture said: “The National Glass Centre has sealed Sunderland’s reputation as one of the leading hubs for glass-making in the UK. Over many decades, through the work of the University and other partners, the city has become a centre of excellence and innovation in this area. The significant costs associated with the repair, maintenance and operation of the current building, however, pose undeniable challenges.
"Sunderland Culture is committed to working with the University to explore an alternative future home for the National Glass Centre in order to ensure future generations can continue to experience the beauty, wonder and creativity of making art in glass.”
The University hopes the move to a new location(s) will be concluded within three years. Until then, the intention is for the National Glass Centre to remain at its current home and continue to operate as usual.