Jorvik designer recalls his days of skiving classes from QEGS and 3-2-1’s Dusty Bin

John Sunderland and Colin Pyrah at Wakefield One promoting 30th anniversary of Jorvik Centre
John Sunderland and Colin Pyrah at Wakefield One promoting 30th anniversary of Jorvik Centre

It’s fair to say John Sunderland’s algebra skives while at QEGS certainly paid off.

The Wakefield-born designer of the first Jorvik Viking Centre and game show booby prize Dusty Bin has now published his memoirs.

On My Way To Jorvik tells the true story of how the 63-year-old was inspired into a life in design while playing truant from his most-hated subject, laying low at the city’s art gallery, museum and cinemas in the 1960s.

Inventive Mr Sunderland, who hails from Calder Grove, said: “I told the algebra master that I had to attend hospital appointments twice a week – coincidentally at the times when I would otherwise have algebra – as I was going blind.

“But I needed to find somewhere to hide during those times, so spent my days imagining myself inside the paintings in the city art gallery, standing on my satchel gazing through the window of the complete Jacobean room contained in the Wakefield Museum and at one of the local cinemas.

“It was as I whiled away the hours during that year that I was struck with a thought of ‘Why can’t museums be more like films?’ and that stayed with me for another 23 years, until I heard about the plans for a museum in York on the site of the Coppergate dig.”

Mr Sunderland joined forces with former Wakefield Express managing director Colin Pyrah to deliver the Jorvik project. Mr Sunderland – also a successful graphic 
designer and illustrator who designed the iconic Dusty Bin for 3-2-1 – has now designed and built 22 museums and heritage centres.

These include the Canterbury Tales Heritage Project, the Eurotunnel Visitor Centre, and Celtica.

Jorvik has just celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The creative team behind it were reunited recently. Mr Pyrah and Mr Sunderland met up at Wakefield One, the successor to the old museum on Wood Street.

And to come full circle, Mr Sunderland’s memoirs, On My Way To Jorvik, are on the shelves in Wakefield libraries. It is also available for sale at The Hepworth and through Amazon and Kindle.