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From Sunderland to the V&A

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Published on 26 September 2017

The Hi-Five Machine by Oliver, 6 - made by Tony Canning from Sunderland Fablab
The Hi-Five Machine by Oliver, 6 - made by Tony Canning from Sunderland Fablab

Little Inventors started life in late 2015 under the project name INVENTORS! when Sunderland graduate, artist and designer Dominic Wilcox, went back to his hometown of Sunderland and challenged 450 school children to think up invention ideas. Out of these funny, practical, bonkers or ingenious ideas, 23 were made into real objects by local makers, and led to the Inventors! project, curated by PhD student Suzy O'Hara.

The project in Sunderland caught the attention of curators at London's famous Victoria & Albert Museum.

Suzy O’Hara, who is currently working on her PhD in Curating New Media Art, was employed for her inventive curating skills by Creative Spring to produce the Inventors! project with Sunderland Foundation Arts & Design graduate Dominic Wilcox.

This Saturday (30 September) Dominic Wilcox returns to Sunderland to launch the Little Inventors exhibition at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

The V&A collects a broad range of visual arts and was drawn to the innovative nature of the project, bringing together the imagination and creativity of children with the skills and expertise of makers, under Dominic's inspirational leadership.

"We are delighted to acquire a selection of five of the inventions made as part of the first Little Inventors project in Sunderland. Dominic’s work and the selected pieces show the great potential of design to change the world and the importance of inspiration and imagination. The War Avoider and Family Scooter, as well as the three others, will join the Design, Architecture and Digital department’s collection of objects that tell stories about design and public life today," says Corinna Gardner, Senior Curator of Design and Digital at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dominc Wilcox added: "This is such a great honour for everyone involved in the project, it was a fantastic collaborative effort between the brilliant children and the enthusiastic and skilful adult makers of Sunderland. Importantly it sends a powerful message to all children that their amazing imaginations can lead to great things. This great honour will inspire us to take Little Inventors to even more children around the world."

The results of first project, commissioned by The Cultural Spring, which is part of the Arts Council England's Creative People and Places network, were shown in a pop-up exhibition in January 2016 to great success. Television cameras from around the world visited the exhibition in Sunderland.

Due to this success and many enquiries from around the world, it was decided to turn the idea into an ongoing project called Little Inventors. Within the first year Little Inventors has developed projects within the UK and partnered in Canada with the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to bring the project to the children of Canada. Little Inventors China has reached over 5000 children with our workshops in 8 months, many children in remote areas of China.


The project website www.littleinventors.org enables children to upload their invention ideas for positive feedback from the staff team.

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