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Reliant Robins with a twist head for Durham light festival

This year’s third Lumiere festival is moving into top gear. David Whetstone talks to contributor Stuart Langley about his unique contribution

One of the Stained Glass Cars by Twsist Design who are Stuart Langley and Matt Sayle
One of the Stained Glass Cars by Twsist Design who are Stuart Langley and Matt Sayle

Most of us will have seen cars with smoked glass windows, but Stuart Langley and Matt Sayle have gone several steps further.

Their cars with stained glass windows will be a talking point at Lumiere – the Durham festival of light-based art, where they will be strategically positioned at park-and-ride sites.

Stuart was at the Gala Theatre yesterday for the programme launch, living proof that North East artists can mix it with the big names from around the country and overseas. Stuart, who lives in Hartlepool, runs Middlesbrough-based Twist Design with business partner Matt.

He said a friend had told them of an open call for ideas from artists for a special, North East strand of Lumiere called Brilliant.

“We thought it was a chance to do something different, so we submitted a proposal and were lucky that it was one of four that were commissioned,” he said.

As graphic designers, the pair thought it would be fun to do and would also perhaps open up new avenues of opportunity.

“We wanted to make a piece that would be accessible and straightforward because there are lot of artworks that the general public don’t really get,” said Stuart.

“We were inspired by the idea of stained glass because Durham Cathedral is so famous for it.

Artist Stuart Langley
Artist Stuart Langley

“We also thought we’d like to do something to give people a bit of excitement in the park-and-ride because they’re usually such boring places.”

The result is Stained Glass Cars. There will be three of them and they will be parked ostentatiously at the Sniperley, Howlands and Belmont Park park-and-ride sites during the four days of Lumiere, November 14-17.

Rather than big status symbol cars, the pair opted for the little Reliant Robin.

These fibreglass three-wheelers were manufactured by the Reliant Motor Company in Tamworth, Staffordshire, from 1973-81 and, according to Wikipedia, have “earned a prominent place in British popular culture, in particular as the object of detrimental humour”.

Ha! Stuart and Matt aim to knock that on the head by making their uniquely customised Robins the centre of attention at a major festival.

Stuart said he bought one of the cars on eBay and found it was garaged not far away, at Mids Auto Service in Marske-by-the-Sea, which is run by a chap called Andrew, who actually had two.

According to Stuart, Andrew rescues examples of this threatened little car, which often finds its way on to the stock car racing circuit once its roadworthiness seeps away.

Stuart and Matt bought both of Andrew’s Robins and then found a third in Billingham.

Once the windscreens had been carefully removed, a Stockton-based firm called Creative Glass was engaged to apply the new stained glass designs.

The Robins, resprayed black and with their engines removed, will be lit from within by LED lights. Stuart said each of the cars – surely destined to be collectors’ items – will have different windows.

The first will reflect the traditional industries of the North East and iconic features such as The Angel of the North; the second will be based on the Lindisfarne Gospels; and the third is a surprise. “It’ll be interesting to see what people think of it,” said Stuart.

He, incidentally, drives a light green Vauxwagen Polo – with transparent windows.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer