Featuring workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, shows and over 300 professional artists and performers, the International Festival Of Glass celebrates 50 years of studio glass worldwide... 

The International Festival of Glass is a real community event. 

As well as celebrating Stourbridge’s heritage of industrial glassmaking, it also acknowledges the development of the studio glass movement 50 years ago and highlights the current challenges and opportunities facing contemporary makers.  

Over 300 professional artists and performers are taking part in this year’s festival. The event includes the prestigious British Glass Biennale exhibition, participatory workshops, lectures, open studios, storytelling, eurythmy and music. 

International and British glass artists will be demonstrating, exhibiting, presenting and selling, while the drama and dynamism of the hot shops ensures that they are always among the event’s most popular attractions. 

Here, we take a look at some of the major elements of the festival, and what visitors can expect to discover in Stourbridge’s Glass Quarter over the August bank holiday weekend. 

Theme for 2017 
This year’s theme of Glass For Good celebrates the ways in which glass is making a positive difference to the world. 

The festival illustrates how glass is being used creatively in therapeutic contexts - such as working with military veterans in Seattle - giving a voice to victims of domestic violence or abuse, and supporting the survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

Unique elements of the festival
The UK’s last remaining maker of glass-eyes, Jost Haas, demonstrates his skills at the festival, while Latvian Karlis Bogustovs unites glass art with skateboarding, making glass skateboard ramps and demonstrating how to use them. Karlis is best known for his glass piano, which will be in evidence at the festival.

A mass-participation project celebrating the international Fused Glass community will see the creation of a huge stretch of glass bunting, with a photo gallery and a few words by each contributor. It’s hoped that the total length of bunting might set a new world record. 

In the Quarter’s brand new museum of glass at White House Cone, local historian Charles Hajdamach and Steve Piper unlock some of the secrets of the production of engraved glass and rock crystal. 

Also contributing to the heritage strand of the festival is David Wilkinson, the UK’s premier chandelier maker, who’ll be taking his audience on a journey into the world of ornamental lighting.

Six heritage walks around Amblecote and Wollaston reveal secrets of the hidden past, while Black Country raconteur Graham Fisher launches an update of his bestselling book, Jewels On The Cut.

The flagship British Glass Biennale is the most prestigious selling show of contemporary glass in the UK, with £100,000 in prizes awarded since its inception in 2004. 

Work by 63 artists is included, reflecting the latest techniques, trends and topical issues. The Biennale is one of 17 exhibitions in the festival, with over 285 professional artists represented. 

Family fun 
Families can meet the Dudley glass recycling team at Red House Glass Cone to find out where all the glass goes, and can also explore the history of the Cone in the company of costumed interpreters. There’s the chance for visitors to decorate jam jars, try their hand at fusing glass, have a go at engraving, enjoy a storytelling afternoon, make a giant, chalk stained-glass window and learn how to develop pin-hole photographs. A special ‘teenage market’, award-winning children’s entertainment, traditional games and numerous craft activities further add to the family-friendly line-up of fun.

Hands-on attractions 
Caroline Jariwala, one of the Creative Black Country’s 100 Masters, creates a series of four new mosaics using a historic kaleidoscope of coloured waste glass unearthed locally. 

The windows will depict four of the main trades and resources of the Coalbourn Brook Valley - coal mining, fire clay mining, glassmaking and the Stourbridge canal.

The Glass Hub, meanwhile, is bringing its Minimelt furnace from Wiltshire. It will host a rolling programme of demonstrations with guest artists, as well as offering visitors the opportunity to make their own unique glass baubles... There are lots of workshops and drop-in sessions to enjoy too, providing people with the chance to learn about glassblowing, stone carving, fused glass and glass engraving.

World premiere Vitrescence: Becoming Glass
Standing 100ft high, the 18th century Redhouse ‘Glass Cone’ chimney is the last of its kind in Europe. 
In its cathedral-like interior, award-winning singer, composer and sound artist Andy Garbi stages a site-specific audiovisual event that celebrates and explores the nature of glass. Designed to react with the unique acoustics of the structure, Vitrescence is part installation and part performance. It features a state-of-the-art 7:1 surround-sound system, live-action glass work and instruments alongside manipulated choral voice, strings and the sounds of glass blowers. The show lasts for approximately 45 minutes but is not suitable for small children. Red House Glass Cone, Saturday 26 August.

The British Glass Biennale has 10 awards, including the People’s Prize and a young collectors prize. 
Children can also vote for their favourite piece and win a glass artwork to start their own collection. 
Entry to the Biennale post-festival is free. The prize winners will be announced at the exhibition’s closing party on 9 September.

Therapeutic use of glass
Blind and profoundly deaf artist Julie Coakley has developed a unique way of creating 3D glass sculptural drawings containing over 100 individual elements of glass. 
Julie’s workshop will allow visitors to have a go at bending glass strings to help her create a new glass sculpture...

The inspirational Hot Shop Heroes: Healing With Fire programme in the US has been supporting some of America’s wounded soldiers by teaching them to blow glass. Working in a hotshop is known to provide physical benefits for people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Project leader Patricia Davidson shares her experience of the programme, and is accompanied by war veteran Michael Daley. 

Patricia and Michael are in town to help launch a similar programme for UK veterans... 
The festival also includes an exhibition by young people with learning difficulties and autism, illustrating the way in which working with glass helps them develop their skills, concentration and sense of self-esteem.

Finale performance
Circus Raj, a ‘supergroup’ of elite street circus performers hailing from Rajasthan, ‘take the ancient, mystical and magical circus format to even greater heights’. The show is performed at the Ruskin Glass Centre on Monday 28 August at 7pm.

The International Festival Of Glass takes place at the Glass Quarter in Stourbridge from Friday 25
to Monday 28 August. 

For further information, visit ifg.org.uk