Our Vision


Our vision, to be achieved through Heart of Glass, is a robust and vibrant arts sector that is valued by our communities and which is nationally and internationally recognised. Through our ambitious work, Heart of Glass will develop a unique, distinctive and sustainable arts programme that will engage our communities in rich and diverse cultural opportunities, through 2017 and beyond.

Inspired by our unique industrial heritage in invention and technology, we will mirror this innovation in our approach to growing audiences and participation. We will learn from our passion and loyalty to Saints Rugby Club about what is valued in our everyday and cultural life and, how we can harness this passion to interlace the arts into our social fabric.

World class artists will work in collaboration with St Helens communities to increase our curiosity, participation and audiences for ambitious and extraordinary arts programming. 

Our Primary Objectives:

  • Creating Great Art
  • Innovative approaches to supporting collaborations between artists and communities
  • Growing Arts Participation through dynamic partnerships
  • Researching and developing new Commissioning Models

We aim to achieve:

  • An ambitious and active local creative sector
  • Committed local partners with a shared vision
  • Dynamic, enduring relationships with local, regional, national and international artists and arts organisations.


Quality & Ambition
Quality is key to everything that Heart of Glass will do:  quality of artistic process and product, quality of experience, quality of communication. In commissioning artworks we will create the conditions where artists can make their best work: offering inventive briefs and contexts where artists can respond instinctively and imaginatively; supported by a great staff team, committed to excellence in community engagement and production values. We will be brave in our commissioning, creating work that resonates with, but also challenges our audiences.

We believe that co-production will enable the greatest sense of ownership and passion for our programme.  Our programme will invest in local creative and social capital, local skills and local knowledge, creating work that is made with and for the people of St Helens. We will nurture, encourage and challenge local talent, and local people will be supported to make their own ideas and projects happen.

Great Art for Everybody
We want to establish a programme that is both inclusive and accessible, reaching the full diversity of audiences in St Helens.  We will aim to engage those who are often considered hard-to-reach through our expansive community networks. We will strive for our programme and our organisational structures to be permeable, and for everyone who wishes to take part to be able to find a role within the project.

St Helens History and Heritage

St Helen’s takes its name from the town that grew around the ‘chapel-at-ease’ situated between the four manors of Sutton, Windle, Eccleston and Parr. In 1700’s the township was mainly agricultural, but the change to an industrial centre began with the cutting of a canal in 1757 and the exploitation of local coal and salt fields. St Helens became a growing industrial centre and received its Royal Charter in 1868.  The town became a centre for innovation and invention, with many leading industrialists and chemists of the 1800’s making St Helen’s their base. St Helens became a world leader in glass technology and pharmaceuticals.

Post-industrial economics have had a significant impact on the town’s fortunes, effecting working, cultural and community life.  Our communities which grew around industry no longer have the same opportunities to have a working life within the town. St Helens has to look outward and find new ways of bringing inward investment.  St Helens will celebrate the 150th year of its royal charter in 2018.

Artistic Plans

Our artistic programme takes its title from the 1970 film by Werner Herzog. Resonating with St Helens, the film depicts a small town whose fortunes are built on glass-making industry, and in particular the manufacture of an exquisite ruby red glass that is much-prized.  The town is thrown into crisis as when the glass-maker who knows the secret methods to create the red glass dies. The townsfolk are played by hypnotised actors, who appear to sleepwalk into their uncertain future. 

Our artistic programme will ask how artists and the arts can help to create a new cultural identity for St Helens. Taking the twin themes of Rugby and Glass as a starting point, we aspire to reflect on our uniqueness and rich heritage in new and innovative ways. 

We plan to create a number of different routes and strategies for participation in the commissioning process, including curatorial workshops, prototype-commissions and community commissioning groups.  We want to create situations where different kinds of expertise and knowledge  – the specialist and the newly engaged, the international and the local, are brought together.

Community Engagement

Our approach to wide and meaningful engagement with St Helens communities will be based on the innovative and successful practice of Saints Community Development Foundation. 

Rugby demonstrates a reciprocally beneficial and supportive relationship between Professional, Amateur and grassroots Community that Heart of Glass will explore as a model within its arts programme.  Passion for Rugby has been used to engage many different sections of the community, from Health and Wellbeing programmes for men through to reminiscence work with dementia patients in partnership with Age UK.

Our Voluntary Arts Sector is finding ways to flourish.  We will work within and through this network to reach, engage and expand what the sector can do.

Recent Voluntary arts mapping revealed more 115 groups and businesses in total operating in the Borough, most small, most unfunded, and all run by individuals and groups passionate about their artform.  Heart of Glass will pro-actively seek to engage with these groups, and to support their future development and sustainability.

Currently St Helens has retained all 13 of its community libraries, an achievement in this challenging climate.  The vision for St Helen’s Libraries is to reinvent them as community hubs for a wide range of social, cultural and educational activity, accentuating the public health and wellbeing aspects of a connected community. 

Helena Partnerships are a key part of our consortium with a long history of engaging with the arts as a community development strategy, for example through the Big Art Little Art project.  We will work with Helena’s Community Development Teams.

Research & Evaluation

Our research and evaluation plan is designed in a manner that enables our collaborators (artists, audiences, stakeholders, participants) to have a role and a vested interest in producing and using the knowledge gained throughout the programme.  We are delighted to be working with University of Central Lancashire’s Psychosocial Research Unit team as our Research partners. 

Our research questions are designed to enable collaboration in the research and evaluation process whilst also ensuring that we measure our progress appropriately.

  1. How can we contribute to international critical discourse related to contemporary collaborative practice by developing models of best practice?
  2. What approach to arts commissioning will sustain great art for everyone and audience development?
  3. What is the contemporary artist’s relationship to civil society?
  4. How can arts practice help us to understand our communities better and shape the future?