Sunderland’s National Glass Centre attracts record visitors after £2.3million facelift

James Bustard, director of the National Glass Centre Sunderland

James Bustard, director of the National Glass Centre Sunderland

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AN arts venue welcomed record visitor numbers during its reopening weekend following a multimillion pound revamp.

Sunderland’s National Glass Centre had 4,335 people through the doors after a £2.3million facelift, which doubled exhibition space.

Bosses at the centre had hoped to get about 3,000 visitors, but actual figures far exceeded expectations.

Director James Bustard said: “We are delighted with the number of visitors that we welcomed to the new look National Glass Centre over our opening weekend, and that we are still welcoming this week.

“We’ve received an unprecedented amount of excellent feedback from our those who have visited and overwhelming endorsement for our new exhibitions and learning activities from the public, artists, cultural partners, stakeholders and the media.

“A definite highlight for the weekend was seeing artist Erwin Eisch, whose work is the focus of our opening exhibition, talking to our visitors in the new gallery and signing and personalising copies of his book for them.

“It just goes to show how much support there is in the region for our attraction and we are looking forward to building on this success in the future.”

The decision to change the centre began two and a half years ago when it was struggling to stay financially viable.

Sunderland University stepped in to take over the running of the centre and had £975,000 already in the bank to make some changes.

James and his team began applying for grants, eventually securing a further £250,000 from the Heritage Lottery and £750,000 from Arts Council England. Money from regional funding applications was also successful.

During the past six months, the venue has doubled the size of its learning studios, doubled exhibition space and created a new gallery charting the history of glass making in Sunderland.

With a series of more interactive exhibitions complimenting the elite work on show, the centre hopes to make itself more accessible.

John and Andrea Scrafton, who visited the centre with daughter Ella, three, were pleasantly surprised.

John, 38, said: “The new gallery looks really good and we liked the whole open-plan feel to the place.

“I hope people come along and enjoy it as it would be a shame to lose it.”