Over the past couple of weeks I have given two talks about Chances. The first was at Thimblemill Library during a coffee morning. The morning was very informal and I had a really enjoyable time meeting the regulars and answering questions as I went through the talk. I met some very interesting people including a lady called Sylvia who used to work in the Vello tube making department. She told me some very interesting stories about the people who worked there. There was Joy who did Diana Ross and Tina Turner impressions around the works and Margaret who was a close friend of Sylvia's and made her wedding dress. It just goes to show that long lasting friendships were forged at Chances. Sylvia described her wedding dress to me and it sounds beautiful. She said that she would forward a picture of it to me so watch this space in case it arrives.
The second talk I gave was at a day school at the University of Birmingham regarding glassmakers in the West Midlands. I was one of four speakers and each speaker had a very different facet of the industry to talk about. Jennifer Davies talked about the rise and fall of the Stourbridge glass industry and gave us an idea of the very interesting work happening at Broadfield House Glass Museum. Sally Hoban introduced us to the famous stained glass artists who worked across the region and described the way that artists were trained at the Birmingham Municipal School of Arts. And Karamdeep Sahota, a project archivist, introduced us to the fascinating records of the Hardman collection at Birmingham City Archives. The four talks that were given and the discussions that followed provided a very broad and varied sweep of the industry across the Midlands and it was an extremely stimulating day, culminating in questions about the future of the glass industry. It seems that whilst the times of large mass-producing glass companies is over, there are many successful individual artists still operating across the region and their more bespoke work offers a view of what the future holds. To get a sense of this future I would advise you to visit Broadfield House Glass Museum to see some of the more contemporary work on display and I was also informed about the International Festival of Glass 2010, which runs from 27 to 30 August at Stourbridge. There will be events, exhibitions, displays and workshops including opportunities to have a go at glass blowing and glass bead making. For more information, check out the website at http://www.ifg.org.uk/.