Schools and community groups across Wearside are preparing for the arrival of The Tall Ships by building their own model boats.

The boats are being constructed from kits designed and produced by FabLab Sunderland, working on a commission from the Cultural Spring, an award-winning, Arts Council England funded initiative working to increase participation in the arts in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The model kits were designed at FabLab by second year BA (Hons) graphic design student Gary Booth, and are made from corrugated cardboard.

Six hundred have been produced so far, and further orders are arriving regularly.

“The brief was to make the kits affordable and easy to assemble, and I’ve really enjoyed the design process – from the first few ideas to producing prototypes to the finished product.

There have been a few challenges to overcome, but we’re pleased with the final outcome,” explained Gary.

“The kits are produced by a laser cutter and we can make 36 an hour. Most are going to schools, but there are some going to local community groups too,” added Carl Gregg, FabLab manager.

Emma Horsman, Project Director of the Cultural Spring, said: “Our model boat project with FabLab is a lovely way for people to feel part of what will be a very special experience when the Tall Ships arrive in July.

Dozens of schools, young people’s groups and community groups have asked for kits and we’ve found Carl and the FabLab team very easy to work with.”

It’s not the first time FabLab has worked with the Cultural Spring. They were a key part of the Inventors! project where they transformed children’s ideas into working models.

The Cultural Spring continues to work on another Tall Ships project – Setting the Sails, which aims to create a fleet of 80 model ships of different sizes and made of different materials.

This project is working with the following community groups: the Box Youth project in Doxford; St Mark’s Church in Millfield; Hopewood Park, Ryhope; Thornhill School in St Michael’s ward, in collaboration with Young Asian Voices, the YMCA in Fencehouses and Fulwell Junior School.

The model boats produced at the workshops will be part of the Tall Ships Welcome Parade, which is being held to greet the Tall Ships on Wednesday, July 11 between 6pm and 7pm.

Those who haven’t been able to attend the model-making workshops can still make their own 3D model ships at FabLab. S

Sessions are available at FabLab’s Hope Street XChange’s base throughout Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16 – see for more details.

The Cultural Spring’s four partners are the University of Sunderland; the Customs House, South Shields, Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and Sangini, a women’s health organisation.

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