We were delighted to celebrate the formal opening of our new £8m workshop spaces last week (Thu 13 Nov) by welcoming special guest Sir John Sorrell, a leading ambassador for arts in the UK.
One of the key figures in UK design, founder of the Sorrell Foundation, and the brains behind the London Design Festival, Sir John Sorrell gave a speech on Thursday 13 November at the opening of our Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops, heralding the importance of creative education and the creative industries to the UK.
“I believe that places like this are incredibly important to this country,” Sir John Sorrell said. “I’m really delighted to be here and I want to say congratulations to everybody who makes this great art school what it is.”
Our new workshops, which house our Jewellery Design studios, our Printed Textile workshop spaces, as well as our new FabLab (FabLab Plymouth), are seen as a significant demonstration of our long-term dedication to physical facilities in arts education.
While many institutions are phasing out tangible, physical facilities in favour of cheaper alternatives, such as lecture theatres and desk-based studios where students’ creativity and exploration are restricted, we're dedicated to continue investing funds where students appreciate it most.
"Places like this are incredibly important to this country.' – Sir John Sorrell
Sir John Sorrell hit home the importance of the creative industries to the UK, describing how, using Government funding, over 100 cities have copied his London Design Festival model – and why they’re doing this.
“Do you think they are doing that for fun? Is it coincidence? No,” he said. “All over the world, cities and nations are waking up to the fact that it is creativity that is going to drive the future for them. They see their design weeks and festivals as being absolutely vital to the run of the city and country – culturally, socially and economically.”
Sir John Sorrell also heralded the importance of art and design to raising Britain’s international profile, referencing Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral – “an extraordinary, brilliant and beautiful piece of design” – at Beijing Design Week.
“We couldn’t think of a more fitting and appropriate way of opening this new chapter in the history of Plymouth College of Art then with a few words from my great friend, Sir John Sorrell." – Professor Andrew Brewerton
“52% of all of the world’s coverage of the opening of the Expo had a photograph of our Pavilion. At the end of the six months, something like 60 million people saw it. The Chinese premier came round and gave us the gold medal for the best pavilion. I can’t tell you how valuable that is to this country’s reputation.”
"A year later I was interviewed by the editor of a Chinese newspaper. She said to me: ‘Tell me, before The Pavilion we thought Britain was an old fashioned, traditional country. Now we think you’re modern and creative.’ ‘Tell me’, she said, ‘how long have you been creative?’”
"John is an inspiration for our work here." – Professor Andrew Brewerton
Sir John Sorrell also staked his claim to making children’s paths to creative education as easy as possible, recounting his entrance exam to Hornsey College of Art.
“I’ll tell you how I actually got into Hornsey full time, because it’s slightly different to the way it works now... I was about fifteen and they said ‘would you like to do the exam to come to Hornsey full time?’ so I said ‘Sure, when?’. They said ‘Now if you like’. I said ‘okay’.
"So they gave me a piece of paper and said ‘draw anything you like’. So, fine, I did a drawing. Six weeks later a little green postcard arrived through my letterbox and it said at the top ‘You have been accepted for a full time course at Hornsey College of Art. Why don’t we make it as easy as that?”
“Someone once said to me ‘the trouble with our education system is that we are brilliant at putting hurdles up in front of our children, to make them continually jump over them and make it difficult for them’. It has always been my dream to during the night take those hurdles away and burn them! Because I want it to be a smooth pathway for kids, the ones whose destiny it is should end up working in this wonderful world we all know about.”
“All over the world, cities and nations are waking up to the fact that it is creativity that is going to drive the future for them." – Sir John Sorrell
Principal Professor Andrew Brewerton also spoke, welcoming the ‘inspirational’ Sir John Sorrell and outlining our commitment to providing for the city of Plymouth.
“It's my privilege on behalf of the college community to welcome Sir John Sorrell here this evening on the occasion of the formal opening of our new workshop and also to mark Plymouth College of Art's transfer to the Higher Education sector – which happened on 4th July. John is an inspiration for our work here.”
“We couldn’t think of a more fitting and appropriate way of opening this new chapter in the history of Plymouth College of Art then with a few words from my great friend, Sir John Sorrell.”
A significant part of the new workshop is the FabLab – a ‘Fabrication Laboratory’ equipped with the latest in digital design machinery that students as well as local businesses can use to produce a vast range of objects.
The FabLab features advanced 3D scanning and printing technology, including a £40,000 ZCorp 450 3D printer, meaning students across Fashion, Fine Art, Crafts and more can easily scan objects and create, interesting sellable items.
Photographs by Dom Moore