As we report on News 8 this week, there is a clear opportunity to develop a glass training facility, which also embraces a glass museum and tourism concept in Waterford.
A symposium held at WIT, which we also reported on last week, suggests there are grounds for replicating successful glass training institutes of long-standing renown in France and the USA, as well as Sunderland, here in Waterford.
In Sunderland, the city’s university and national glass centre share resources, share overheads and work with local artists – all under the one roof.
Getting educational authorities interested in this is a priority, and the fact that WIT hosted the symposium suggests the Institute in its current guise or a Technological University, would prove a most welcome third level supporter.
The symposium was organised by the Glass Society of Ireland, which saw speakers travelling from around the world to talk about their experiences and to add to their two cents to the potential Waterford concept.
We understand that Waterford City Council is getting behind the project, which is good news. And it was good to see former ‘Glass’ worker Joe Kelly and Fiona McHardy of the Viking Triangle in attendance.
Building enthusiasm in the city for the project is key. The pain of the Kilbarry factory closure is still there for many former workers. Their lives have changed
Now that the pension matter has been welcomingly resolved, it might be possible to move such a glass project forward.
To the skills of this great trade passed on to a new generation of artists would clearly be a positive step for the city: an objective that’s been achieved in the Lorraine region of France.
At Meisenthal, in the east of the country, it took those behind the ‘new’ venture over a decade to come to terms with the closure of its large scale production facility. This has now been achieved with the former facility there now being used as an exhibition area and glass school with shared resources.
An enthusiastic glass artist group also built into the sense of momentum at Meisenthal, and their co-operation with nearby universities, including Metz, is noteworthy.
An enlightened future approach, lobbying for Leader-type financing and education-sourced funding would help, hence the need, we feel, to establish a strong link with a major education provider.
WIT might have strained financial resources at present (see News 5) but a special Government fund could be created to make this glass training centre a matter of strategic importance to Waterford. It would undoubtedly attract more tourists and create real craft jobs in the future.
Getting the various stakeholders together – local and national government, WIT and other post-Leaving Cert education providers, the Chamber of Commerce and, perhaps, some philanthropic interest, is viewed as an integral part of such an agreed plan.
Kilkenny has its wonderful design centre, so surely the time is right for the creation of Waterford’s glass centre.
A year on from Waterford Crystal taking on trainees for the first time since 1986 (and we’ve more on their successes, also on News 8), the time to honour this city’s proud craft history has surely come. And a united approach is the best way of seeing this ambition fulfilled.