Northern Ireland's Premier Heady Glass Festival
Glass gallery, the Flame of Thrones, hosted its second annual summer festival by the shores of Lough Neagh in Toome last weekend. Glass enthusiasts came from all over the UK and Europe to catch a first glimpse of some of the hottest new glass artist collaborations to pull out of the kiln.
Avid glass collector and Belfast entrepreneur Martin Giles is the brand owner of Flame of Thrones. The studio space has been lovingly crafted over the past 18 months with the goal of providing a space where local and international glass artists can unite and use the facilities to contribute something new to the Irish and UK heady glass art movement.
Event attendees walking into this year’s Flame of Thrones were greeted by a big open space with large marble floor tiles, a wall of glass display cabinets to your left and a counter full of interesting heady items for sale. This is not your usual headshop. Almost everything in stock is a rare collectable item, a limited edition or even one of a kind.
Martin, who goes by Marty, told us about his plans for the studio, “The idea is to bring world-class talent to us here in Northern Ireland. We have a beautiful country to come and see, amazing artists are coming out of Belfast, and it’ll be amazing to see everyone working together and creating original art here.”
Marty has been hosting community events across Northern Ireland for around a decade, and his success has brought together communities that were raised to be enemies in the troubles. The experience that the locals lived with growing up was heard through the expressive music that rang true from local Belfast hip-hop artist Jun Tzu, who took to the stage to express himself and share his talent. Philip Hughes and Garrett Donaghy form the duo Homegrown and blasted out their anthem tracks “Well” and “Getting High with Jesus” which got everyone singing along with its catchiness.
There is a real sense of pride in a community collective that pulls together to make an event happen and further the UK cannabis movement’s aims. Marty has invested a lot of time and finances into his business. When he started working on his new venture, he soon realised there was nowhere close for him to buy a cup of coffee on the whole industrial estate. Quick to act, he purchased a coffee van business and parked it outside the front of the studio, starting to serve high-end coffees to the local tradespeople. “It was a bit of an investment, but we are making our money back fairly fast; people like good coffee, and we can take it to events,” Marty told us, in true entrepreneur spirit.
On Friday, everything was moved down to the beach, located a 45-minute drive away. We arrived in the late afternoon and were greeted by a truely magnificent setting for the weekend gathering. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the UK, surrounded by green countryside and has several small private and secluded beaches dotted around the edges.
To get to the beach, you must walk through a small woodland area appropriately filled with tents where festival attendees were camping out. Everyone was smiling and happy to say hello to those turning up with grinning faces. It was clear to see everyone was looking forward to having a great relaxed weekend.
The glassblowing zone was located at the top of some woodlands next to the local pub, which opened only in the evening. Six torch stations were set up, with artists working away at all of them. The artists were Scarlet Impressions, Frank Oddyseed aka Hive Glass, local artists Jordan known as Melted Glass and his friend that inspired him, Chillin’ Glass. International glass artist Manu or Glas Haus Switzerland joined the crew alongside Burtango Glass, over from London and Hellhound Glass, over from Wales.
Over the weekend, Scarlet Impressions made some brilliant and affordable glass trinkets and jewellery that proved to be some of the most popular sellers of the whole weekend, whilst Hive Glass worked away next to her crafting two new removable downstem rigs using some of the colourwork made by Glas Haus. These collaborations have helped fuse the glass scene in the UK and Europe, helped the artists grow their audience and make a name for themselves in other countries.
Burtango Glass kept the spirit alive, telling stories of the late 80s and 90s as tunes from his youth and the people he grew up with came on the radio. Burtango specialises in glass marbles that captivate the eye, offering lessons to first-timers who attended the weekend. Hellhound Glass took to the torch to make an implosion millie cane with “Lifes A Beach” written on it, allowing artists to stamp their work with a little reminder of the event.
The glass zone had a shop set up featuring The CKR gallery, Glob Glass and the Flame of Thrones, displaying exotic glass from all the artists exhibiting and even more made by US glass artists.
Back at the beach, the Belfast Music Collective filled the air with sweet grooves from their live band set-up. Having live music at these kinds of events really improves the atmosphere. It gives a real sense of authenticity to overhearing the same reggae tracks over again.
Jun Tzu performed an eclectic mix of vocal arrangements from hardcore street rap inspired by the often dangerous and eye-opening life he has led but peppered in classic Irish folk songs and poems. The crowds assembled to watch him and sang along with the words; you could tell their heritage meant a lot to them.
On the beach were a dozen headshops and culture/lifestyle brands with gazebos selling both headshop items and art. Fresh Pressed Terps made the journey over from Scotland, offering attendees the chance to wrap their lips around a bottle of freshly pressed fruit juices, enjoy a freshly cut coconut and grab some chocolate-covered popcorn. By the evening, the Reeses hot chocolate machine was pumping, and almost everyone had a cup in their hand.
Marty’s coffees van was also a popular choice to keep the energy flowing for the day; with the queues long and constant; the food and drink offerings proved to be a worthwhile investment for his business strategy. Smash burgers, pizza, and loaded fries fuelled the festivities over the two days at the beach. And as a treat for the guests, Flame of Thrones even organised a succulent hog roast each evening for the 300-odd people in attendance.
When the weather took a turn for the worst, the military-style shelters provided the perfect cover for guests, as showers passed over the beach (brought by the UK met office’s first named storm of 2023 – storm Adrian) Luckily, the worst of the storm missed the little herbal haven that had been created on the beach.
When the downpours did come, they phased no one. Everyone ran under the covers, but the band kept playing. There is a saying in Northern Ireland, “There are only seven types of rain; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Keep your eyes open for more events in Northern Ireland. And if you haven’t been, go – it’s a beautiful country. Belfast really is a wonderful place to visit.
Written by Gregg de Hoedt. Images by Headyshots.uk
Greg de Hoedt is founder of the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs and a cannabis writer based in Brighton, UK. He brings this expertise to the cannevents team as an events correspondent.
Headyglass.uk is a cannabis event photographer who has been snapping incredible images of the UK Cannabis Scene for a number of years.