When we wrote our first round bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Newton’s Place project, we imagined interesting and creative ways in which we could connect local people with the town’s history.
In honour of the fabulous stained glass in the former St Leonard’s church we planned a glass-making project. This involved local people making a piece of glass to be installed in the new museum space. Forming part of an impressive glass entrance to the new building, the glass pieces would also be part of a glass trail around the building, plus a giant glass mobile made of tiffany-glass tea cups and cake for the Madge Mellor's area.
In April, we appointed stained glass artist Amy McCarthy to work with us on the project. Amy creates beautiful stained glass work and she has experience of both working with community groups and with heritage themes, so she was the ideal candidate for the job.
She devised a series of workshops that provided a range of methods of working with glass to suit each group, based on various areas of history of the town. Children from Wolborough School were inspired by the Sandford Orleigh Screen and created glass moulds, whilst young people from College House in Newton Abbot took photographs of the proposed cultural quarter, created digital artwork and then printed their images onto glass.
Newton Abbot's University of the 3rd Age looked at the artwork in the windows in St Leonard's church and images from the fabric collection in the museum, whilst Newton Abbot Art Group painted and etched images of 'Notable Newtonians'. In the family workshop, young and old learned about the cod industry in Newton Abbot and the connections with Newfoundland in Canada, whilst creating beautiful fused-glass fish.
The Learn Devon adult literacy group created a stained glass clock tower with words and images about the town's history, including the market.
As a result of the workshops, 150 people took part in making artworks that celebrate the history of the town and which will be a permanent feature in the new building.
We can't wait to see what it looks like when it opens in 2019/2020.