FLASH@Hebburn – Charles Quick

FLASH@Hebburn is the last art installation to take place as part of the Art on the Riverside project in South Tyneside, created by artist Charles Quick. The project, sponsored by the Arts Council, National Lottery, along with the Tyne and Wear local authorities, is one of the largest public art programmes in the UK. Within South Tyneside, the Customs House arts centre and South Tyneside Council have worked to provide a major series of major sculptures along many miles of the riverside.

Each of the sculptures has its own story to tell, and FLASH even more so because of the many obstacles it had to overcome. Like most public art projects that succeed, it required courage and commitment from the artist and the many unsung heroes who all helped make it happen.

FLASH@Hebburn is a new beacon for Hebburn Riverside and many local residents have been involved, designing their own creative ‘sequences’, which reflect the emotions of those who worked in industry, on the river, or just current users who walk or cycle in the area.

FLASH@Hebburn, to various onlookers, might seem like just another public art commission, emerging from another urban regeneration scheme, conveniently situated in a local park. On the other hand, FLASH doesn’t look like a work of art. It looks like an industrial installation, signalling coded messages to river traffic or the airways. Its visual appearance is animated by light sequences, visible for miles around, where also a blue-white resonant field of light is created in and around the site of the park. The work is radio controlled, emitting light at set times of day and night, whereupon small groups of visitors gather to watch, walk around, think, wonder. The short light sequences are meaningful to some local residents, whose daily activity it articulates, but more are more cryptic for others, where the staccato of the flashlight punctures the largely immobile de- industrialised landscape around it, signifying something about past history and future possibility. 

The creation of FLASH@Hebburn spanned a period of seven and a half years, from the initial commission to the official unveiling. On Tuesday 3rd March 2009 FLASH@Hebburn was switched on for the very first time and was a very powerful experience.

Here's a little quote I gave for an article in The Drum:

“We’ve been working with Charles for many years and have been helping him since the beginning of FLASH. He came to us wanting to create a book that told the story from the start of the project to today, showing the importance of the sculpture in terms of art as well as in the community. It was the perfect brief really, incredible images, fascinating essays and no actual brief, I guess it would’ve been hard to have done a bad job! We wanted the book to physically represent the sculpture and it’s journey, so we used to scale laser foil circles on the cover to replicate the casing of the sculptures. It really is a fascinating installation and we’re very proud to have been a part of it and highly recommend everyone ventures to Hebburn to see it.”


Charles Quick Flash Blog

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