Young Sunderland inventors to have work displayed at V&A Museum

Richard Avenue Primary School pupil Gabriel Coates, 10 who has designed a lamp on wheels.
Artist maker Chris Folwell
Richard Avenue Primary School pupil Gabriel Coates, 10 who has designed a lamp on wheels. Artist maker Chris Folwell
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Quirky inventions thought up by Wearside children are to feature in exhibitions at home and away.

The objects, including a lamp on wheels, a war avoider and a family scooter, started life in 2015 when artist and designer Dominic Wilcox returned to his home city for the Inventors! project, which challenged 450 children from across the city to come up with their own weird and wonderful designs.

Since then a number of the inventions from resulting workshops have been chosen to be made into real objects by local makers, which have captured the attention of gallery curators.

From Saturday, a number of the inventions and sketches will be on display at the Museum and Winter Gardens. Meanwhile, the V&A in London has also acquired five of the inventions which will join the Design, Architecture and Digital department’s collection of objects that tell stories about design and public life today.

Gabriel Coates, ten, a pupil at Richard Avenue Primary School, is one of those chosen to have their invention brought to life for the Winter Garden exhibition.

Year five leader Claire Willis said: “The Little Inventors team came into school and did a workshop which really inspired the kids to come up with their own ideas. Gabriel’s was the only one from the school chosen to be made and it’s a brilliant idea.

Richard Avenue Primary School pupil Gabriel Coates, 10 who designed a lamp on wheels. 
Artist maker Chris Folwell

Richard Avenue Primary School pupil Gabriel Coates, 10 who designed a lamp on wheels. Artist maker Chris Folwell

“It started as a remote control lamp so he could read in bed at night time, but it’s become like a remote controlled car with a changing coloured light too.”

The five inventions acquired by the V&A are The Liftolator (War Avoider) by Charlotte Scott; The Super Fast Tennis Ball by Kai Rowntree; The Family Scooter by Wendy Ridley; The Hi-Five Machine by Oliver and The Shady Lamp by Layla Amir.

Speaking about the famous museum’s interest in the project, former St Aidan’s pupil Dominic, who has had his work displayed at some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, said: “This is such a great honour for everyone involved in the project, it was a fantastic collaborative effort between the brilliant children and the enthusiastic and skilful adult makers of Sunderland.

“Importantly it sends a powerful message to all children that their amazing imaginations can lead to great things. This great honour will inspire us to take Little Inventors to even more children around the world.”

The hi five machine will go on display at the V&A

The hi five machine will go on display at the V&A

Corinna Gardner, senior curator of Design and Digital at the Victoria and Albert Museum, said: “We are delighted to acquire a selection of five of the inventions made as part of the first Little Inventors project in Sunderland. Dominic’s work and the selected pieces show the great potential of design to change the world and the importance of inspiration and imagination.”

The results of the first project, commissioned by The Cultural Spring, which is part of the Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places network, were shown in a pop-up exhibition in Fawcett Street in January 2016 to great success with television cameras from around the world visiting the exhibition.

Emma Horsman, project director of the Cultural Spring, said: “We’re delighted that five inventions from our Inventors! project have been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum. Inventors! was one of our most popular commissions and we all thoroughly enjoyed working with Dominic, his inventors and the army of creators and makers who made their ideas into a reality.”

Due to this success and many enquiries from around the world, it was decided to turn the idea into an ongoing project called Little Inventors. Within the first year Little Inventors has developed projects within the UK and partnered in Canada with the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to bring the project to the children of Canada. Meanwhile, Little Inventors China has reached over 5000 children in eight months through its workshop, with many of those children living in remote areas of China.

The War Avoider has been acquired by the V&A

The War Avoider has been acquired by the V&A

Sunderland-born artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox showed pupils one of his inventions as part of an Inventions! project for The Cultural Spring.

Sunderland-born artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox showed pupils one of his inventions as part of an Inventions! project for The Cultural Spring.