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Heart of Glass Art Project
Thursday 19th December, 2013 - 13:08

ONE of the most ambitious arts projects in the town's history will unfold over the next three years thanks to a £1.5m grant.

Two iconic emblems of St Helens' heritage - glass and rugby league - will be at its core after Saints Community Development Foundation secured the funding from the Arts Council England.

Now organisers have begun discussing with the public imaginative ideas that will bring the project, named The Heart of Glass, to life from next year.

Public art, dance, music, theatrical displays, creative writing, digital and visual arts will all be on the agenda to celebrate themes that have been described as the town's "cultural heartbeat".

A lot of the events, which will get under way in 2014, will be staged in St Helens town centre, meaning shops and businesses could potentially reap benefits from more visitors.

Organisers hope to involve thousands of people, including those who have never took part in the arts, to celebrate what is distinct about the town.

Arts organisations, museums, libraries, community groups and amateur sports teams are among those expected to team up.

Artists with significant international and national reputations will take part, as will Saints players past and present and glass workers.

Cath Shea, arts development manager at St Helens Council, said: "We want people to come up with ideas and get the community involved.

"We also we want them to think about what art is. Many people believe it is just a painting on the wall - there's music, dance, theatre and so much more. The Arts Council want us to be really ambitious.

"We imagine a lot of work taking place in the town centre - we are particularly interested in hearing from Saints fans to see what kind of things they would be interested in doing."

Saints Community Development Foundation led a consortium of The World of Glass, St Helens Council, Helena Partnerships, Liverpool-based Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, and the Citadel, Platform and St Helens Music Hub in securing the funding.

It was one of 18 organisations in England awarded a share of £34 million from the Arts Council's Creative People and Places fund.

The process was highly competitive and, after several years in which funding cuts have dominated the agenda, the project's partners believe it is a ray of optimism.

St Helens' success in delivering the Dream sculpture is believed to have stood in its favour when the funding bid was considered.

Gordon Pennington, of the Saints Community Foundation, said: "There have been discussion about events taking place at Langtree Park - and who knows what could come out of it?

"We want people to open up their imagination.

"One idea we have for a starting point is a seat from Knowsley Road. At first you say ‘well it's just an old wooden chair'. But think beyond that. Look at all the grooves in that chair. How many people sat on it down the years - what were their experiences? What were their lives like?

"Another is that we have an artist in residence at the club - capturing life at Saints. There's a lot to think about and we want Star readers' feedback."

Heart of Glass organisers want people who generally shy away from the arts to explain what turns them off.

As part of the consultation project leaders are inviting Star readers who don't take part in the arts to answer three questions.

They are:

  • What do you think stops you taking part or puts you off?
  • What sort of things would get you interested in taking part in the arts either as an audience member or yourself?
  • If there was an arts event being promoted linked to rugby or glass would this encourage you to take part?

Send your responses to scdf@saintsrlfc.com or write to SCDF, Langtree Park, St Helens, Merseyside, WA9 3AN.