2000 Ironbridge


The 40th Annual Symposium of the

British Society of Scientific Glassblowers.

Ironbridge ~ 14th – 16th September, 2000






Even a national fuel crisis can’t stop determined glassblowers!

While most of the country was at a stand still, B.S.S.G members from all over the country were making their way to Ironbridge for the 40th Annual Symposium (some at 40mph to conserve fuel!)

Almost all of the 80 delegates and 20 companions made it to this special Millennium Symposium, held at the Telford Golf and Country Club. It was a rainy day, but this did not stop the golfers of the Society playing in the B.S.S.G Stableford golf competition held in the morning of the first day. This was won By Larry and Valerie Keenan. Alan Howell won a special prize for taking the most golf strokes!

The Chair of Telford Council, Mr Clive Mason who was accompanied by his wife Brenda, opened the Symposium. Following this ceremony, BSSG Chairman, Mr Ralph Thompson escorted Mr and Mrs Mason around the Trade Stand area.

This year the trade exhibition comprised of ;

Bibby Sterilin Ltd

Graphite Technologies

Schott Glass Limited

Smith Scientific, (Tel 01732 864864, fax 01732 867799)

U.Q.G Limited


Heathway Limited

Two companies unfortunately could not take part due to the fuel shortage.

These were;

Louwers Glass Techniques


Cranden Diamond Products

Proceedings commenced with a superb afternoon of practical demonstrations. Ian Pearson from the Scottish Section showed the audience how to make rectangular and square pieces of glass with the minimum use of tools and equipment. Ian also used his scientific knowledge to discuss their uses in the laboratory. Fred Morse, a well-known character within the Society, demonstrated the manufacture of high precision tight circles of 28mm tubing using wooden bridge supports. Paul Le Pinnet, from the Northwest Section, showed the delegates how glass-bursting discs are made and used in chemical plants as simple but very effective failure detectors. Lastly, Peter Brookes, from the Thames Valley Section employed a lathe and gave a very lively and informative demonstration of a variety of glass manipulations with the emphasis on a quick change of tools and the use of jigs. It was a busy afternoon for our enthusiastic demonstrators as the four practical sessions took place simultaneously to give everyone a chance to see everything. There was even time for the Chair of the Council and his wife to have a go – an experience I do not think they will ever forget! And lastly, we should not forget Norman Ellis and his Midlands Section crew who set up the equipment and kept the demonstrations running smoothly – luckily Norman’s fire fighting skills were not required!

The first day was rounded off by a ‘Black Country’ theme evening. With faggots and peas, music from Giggerty and comedy from Tommy Mondon, the evening went with quite a swing!

The second day started with a very informative lecture by Graham Reed, the Society’s librarian. The lecture covered some of the latest additions to our already substantial database. With over 221 books and 170 videos, the B.S.S.G library can offer the solution to general as well as very specialised problems.

The A.G.M saw the re-election of Officers and an open discussion of some of the issues facing the Society. Carrying on with the theme of practical glassblowing, the afternoon found the delegates whisked off on coaches to experience some of the rich traditions of ‘glass’ to be found in the Stourbridge area. Half the delegates visited Plowden and Thompson, www.plowden-thompson.com where they experienced, at first hand, some of the skills and techniques employed at this unique site. The visit also included a look at two of the areas many hot glass studios that are pushing forward the boundaries of contemporary glassblowing.

Blowzone Studios & BelleGlass

The other half of the symposium delegation visited the Broadfield House Glass Museum www.dudley.gov.uk . The Museum’s Director whose enthusiasm and knowledge helped make the visit extremely interesting showed us around. It was a worthwhile trip on both sides, as members of our group were also able to shed some light on one or two museum’s more obscure pieces! We also saw a demonstration of how cameo glass is made by young students, who are given a helping hand in getting started by the museum.

The second day finished with the annual dinner, with its usual mixes of good food and wine, good company and of course a very amusing after- dinner speaker! Several trophies were awarded accompanied by justified loud applause. Phil Murray won the A.D.Wood Cup, with Robert Farrington receiving a Certificate of Merit. Graham Reed won the Norman Collins Award for his entry as part of successfully completing his Master Glassblowers exam. Elywn Holiday received a certificate of Merit in the same competition. Elywn also won the David Flack award for artistic glassware with his entry of the “Iron Bridge” made form Pyrex rod. Paul Musgreaves and Paula Craib each won a Certificate of Merit in the literary competition. Ian Pearson received the Lucy Oldfield Cup to mark his contribution to the BSSG Journal over the last thirteen years. The Thames Valley Cup went to Chris Pittock. The “best trade stand” as judged by the Chair of Telford Council, was Graphite Technology. Certificates of appreciation went to Maureen Pearson, Pat Young, Jim Frost and Cecil Cullingford. The Chairman’s Rose bowl was presented to Jenny Turnock. A trade stand competition was organised for delegates to answer questions concerning all displays and this was won By Paula Craib with assistance from Willie McCormack.

The third and final day consisted of the Norman Collins lecture delivered very effectively by Richard Dean of Graphite Technologies. The entire Symposium was also complimented throughout by an excellent trade exhibition, which is an important platform for showing the latest developments in products and services used in the scientific glassblowing industry.

Thanks also to our very generous sponsors;

Bibby Sterilin Ltd,

Chance Brothers,

Hampshire Glass,

QVF Process systems,


York Glassware

J Young’s.

The aim of the Millennium Symposium was a celebration of ‘glass’ and the vast skill and experience represented by our Society. The practical demonstrations, the excellent lectures and external visits all contributed to this celebration, which I hope were enjoyable and informative to everyone who attended.

Companion Report

By Nicole Opitz

14th September 2000 – time to start the first Symposium of this Millennium! This year’s Symposium was not only the first of the new Millennium but mine as well. All the ladies on the Companions’ programme made it a special one.

We started off on Thursday afternoon with the highlight of the programme (said by some of the delegates who we could hardly stop from joining us!) – the visit to Wroxeter Roman Vineyard. Here, we were not just welcomed by Mr David Millington, who is the owner, but by his very playful black labrador. We were supposed to have had tea first, but as we were full from the nice lunch at the hotel, we started our tour around the vineyard straight away.

Everyone was armed with an umbrella – but as Mr Millington promised, it stopped raining and we even saw some sunshine! We got a good insight into all the different grapes and the different ways of looking after them. After all that, the thing we had all been waiting for – the Wine Tasting. Four different wines later – I came to the conclusion that English wine is so not bad after all! Conveniently, the vineyard has their own shop where they are allowed to sell to the public. Sorry chaps, I think that all of us bought something!

After spending all of our money, the coach took us back to the hotel, where we had a Black Country Theme evening to look forward to. Even the food was tailored around the theme. We started the evening with faggots and peas and ended it with Giggerty.

The next day it was raining again and we were off to the Blists Hill Victorian town, where we started off by changing our new money into old. Since all the staff at this site are experts in the history of this place, it was not necessary to get a guide and we split up into little groups. But amazingly, we all met up in the coffee shop at the bottom of the hill at exactly the same time! We moved from candlemakers to blacksmith and eventually finished at the sweet shop.

After two and a half hours, we were ready to take our lunch break. As it was raining quite heavily at the time, the group was reconsidering the visit to the Ironbridge. Everyone, except Pat Young, who was determined to go there – and we were all about to find out why. . . . . . .

She had been carrying a yellow plastic bag all day and would not let it out of her sight. There was a lot of curiosity about this bag. What did it contain? As it had temporarily stopped raining, the coach driver stopped at the Ironbridge. The contents of the mysterious bag were about to be revealed, as Pat turned herself into a miniature bungee jumper! She had her own rubber rings and parachute for emergencies, as well as a lifejacket so that she could be found just in case anything happened. A handmade model of the Ironbridge was used as the launching pole and to do last minute adjustments, she even carried her own toolkit. The whole thing caused hysterics among the companions and it took me quite some time to take the photograph as I was laughing so much

After we all calmed down, we went to a nice hotel for lunch, where we had a well earned rest and had time to dry out a little! From here we went to the Coalport China Museum, where we had a very enthusiastic tour guide who explained the history and making of the china.

Well, it had been a long night the night before. To the great relief of our partners’ cashflow, we did not spend much money here. Now it was time to head back and make ourselves look beautiful for the annual dinner and award ceremony.

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