Residency transforms school to provide breathing space for staff

Teachers at a school in Rainford have been taking advantage of a new ‘breathing space’ in the form of an encampment designed and erected by artist Mark Storor with students.

A new communal space for staff at Rainford High Technology College in the borough of St Helens was created by students this week as part of a long term artist residency.

Storor has worked in the school since October 2016 when he was invited to explore and respond to the schools emotional health. After a series of workshops with staff and pupils Storor decided to create a pop-up space specifically for teachers.

The re-vitalised area in the central quadrangle of the school was opened after pupils were invited to work with staff to celebrate the coming together of teachers in a recreational space. A main tent, flanked by other tents, artwork and blankets was used as a place for staff to get a cup of coffee and cake.

Storor has been in St Helens since October 2015 working in various communities through a series of short term bespoke projects.

He said: “Its more than the students creating something for the teachers, it is about creating a communal space for all staff. The young artists I have been working with recognise not only the need for a dedicated communal place, but the absolute value in ‘real’ and symbolic terms of a space to ‘breathe’. A pause for thought, for reflection and permission to take that moment.”

Rory Hughes, Head of Art & Photography at Rainford High Technology College, said: “Having Mark here and working with students and staff has altered the environment of the school. Through the workshops I believe the look, feel and atmosphere of the school has subtly changed.”

“Firstly it’s altered how everyone engages with that particular space. It’s also slightly adapted the way students and teachers have treated the recreational time, in a positive way. It’s good for the students to see teachers socialising together and this open space has made that possible.”

“I think long term subtle changes will feed into our school, this has highlighted to everyone the use of space and how we spend time together. I think as an art project, what has been created through the artist, the students and the staff will bring about positive change.”

Ian Young, Principal of Rainford High Technology College, said: “The work that has been done by students and staff with Mark has allowed a shared experience and sense of identity to emerge across the school. It has raised the community feel good factor across the whole school.”

Mark Storor is an award-winning British artist with a national and international reputation. Working in the space between live art and theatre, he has been described in the British press as “a genuinely visionary theatre maker” and “an alchemist”.  He is currently working on a 12 year residency with Heart of Glass, based in St Helens, Merseyside, titled Baa Baa Baric: Have You Any Pull? A Quiet Revolution, the work is a long term collaboration with the people of St Helens.


2020 Vision launch event

Heart of Glass is delighted to announce the launch of 2020 Vision, a new project by Sophie Mahon in collaboration with young people from across St Helens.

Artist Sophie has been artist in residence for the last six months in St Helens, working with young people in Parr, Finger Post and Four Acre.

2020 Vision is a project exploring the future of our world through the perspective of young people in St Helens. The exhibition showcases a number of artworks relating to the past and present and explores the best and worst possible narratives for the future.

The project is a partnership between Heart of Glass and Helena Homes Make It Happen project, and supported through our participation in the Creative Europe funded Collaborative Arts Partnership programme (CAPP).

Over the course of six months Sophie developed workshops with St Helens Youth Service, Wild Card Amateur Boxing Club, St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, St Augustine’s of Canterbury Catholic High School, The Sutton Academy, Free Runners Derbyshire Hill Family Centre, Parr Library, Chester Lane Library, Holy Trinity Church and 818 group; bringing together a group of young collaborators with whom she has developed the project.

Join us for the 2020 Vision Launch Event this Thursday May 4th 4pm – 6.30pm


St Mary’s Market (former CelebLook shop),

6 Brownlow Arcade (Church Street entrance), St Helens, WA10 1AG

Exhibition dates

Friday May 5th – Sunday May 21st

Opening times

Monday to Saturday – 11.30am – 5.30pm Sundays 12pm – 4pm


Heart of Glass is an agency for collaborative and social arts practice based in St Helens



Exhibition set to open

Work from a new project around the theme of dementia will be showcased in St Helens on Wednesday, December 7th.

R-Age: A Definition of Love, is a project commissioned by Heart of Glass, has been taking place throughout 2016 and work from artists and participants will be displayed at The Beecham’s Building on Water Street.

The exhibition will be open throughout Wednesday with an introduction to the project, artist talk, short film and Q&A from 5.30pm.

The project has been delivered by Alison Kershaw, a contemporary visual artist and Adele Fowles, a performer and artist Sandra Bouguerch.

The participants from around St Helens have attended sessions at The Beecham’s Building with one member of the group hailing the workshops “the highlight of my week.”

We chatted to Alison about the project ahead of the exhibition:

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Q: How did you get involved with this project?

I worked with Heart of Glass on the “Your Name Here” project – and whilst I was doing some videos with older residents, Kat, one of the producers here asked me to think about how we could work with dementia groups.

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease in 2012, and so she knew I already had some direct experience.

I proposed the project and it was accepted. From then on we were reading books and searching for work about dementia – of which there is quite a lot. 

Q: What led you to focus on literature and film for this project?

It started when a friend recommended me to read Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healy. Its a light read, not the greatest novel I’ve ever read but it helped me. My mother has Alzheimers and this book really tries to describe what it might be like to experience dementia.

I found it really helped me to think about my Mum’s situation differently – and try to imagine what it might be like for her. It made me more empathic and to see how small objects and material things like clothes or handkerchiefs could become very very important for reasons I hadn’t understood, but that like photographs, they helped her to piece her history together.

So the starting point was to think about ways that families of people living with dementia would be able to meet together, do something enjoyable, whilst also finding a “way in” to talking about issues that they might like to discuss around how dementia affects their lives and also to think what it might be like for the person with a dementia.

Using literature was a way of discussing the subject without it needing to become personal – but of course it soon did. I wanted to create a project that could potentially continue into the lives of the participants and I thought about a Book Club – where people get together in small groups to share their ideas about a novel, poem or film.

Once Adele and I started researching, there was so much rich material to get our teeth into.

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Q: What do you think this project has achieved?

 A great deal was achieved. Firstly, in the reading group the opportunity to be together, immersed in stories was mentally stimulating, challenged our perceptions and to enabled us to discuss some very difficult areas that we all had in common.

This was most valuable, because we all learnt from and supported each other. Everyone shared openly and freely. Everyone in the group was very supportive of each other – and I think that comes out in the soundtrack of the film. This involved 16 hours of sound recordings from the discussions being condensed to 16 minutes – so you get a flavour of that sharing. We also managed to laugh a lot and cry a little at times.

Moved by the literature and films which can be very cathartic. The research where Adele and I read all the novels, means that we now have a great reading list of books, poetry and films and have extracts from the books to share with others. We are finding new ones to add all the time.

Q: What has been the participant feedback?

From what the main participants said to us, it was something they really enjoyed and gained from – more so than they had anticipated, when we told them what we would be doing. We began each session with a guided relaxation – just to take ourselves out of our rushed selves and try to leave the day behind.

This continued in the luxurious state of being read to by Adele which people found relaxing. Jane and Denise, who attended all the sessions seemed to lap up the literature and they began writing down their own experiences in the form of poems in notebooks we had provided. They always came in with stories about their week and just appreciated the time taken by myself and Adele to prepare the sessions.

They said they would go away and watch the films and pick up copies of some of the books. They appreciated the intellectual stimulation the project gave them, because in everyday life it was hard to have any in depth conversations. Jane told us that coming to Heart of Glass for R-Age was “the highlight of my week”, which was a massive endorsement. Denise said that the course had reignited her interest in writing, and that she would continue to use writing as a way to “get things out of my head and onto paper” For her, a very important point was that it would be difficult to do the project or continue with the reading group without the other group run by Sandra – where the partners living with dementia were safe and also stimulated and engaged with the art laboratory.

Q: What do you believe are the long term benefit of this project?

I hope that the long term benefits will be to recognise how important it is to support creative spaces and projects where people can share their experiences and try out new things or discover old skills anew in a supportive environment.

Doing this kind of work with art is hugely beneficial to those who take part because it allows them to imagine, experiment and play. There is no right or wrong outcome – no wrong answers, just your own journey of discovery. It can boost self esteem of those involved and rekindle interests that perhaps we’ve not had time for in the busy schedules we are all caught up in.

I don’t think we can underestimate how important it is to value the arts. Artists are often pioneers discovering how the world looks, feels and behaves and reflecting it back to us. This is what we discover in the work of writers, film makers, painters and ourselves as we share the experience of seeing art or making art. If we care about anything it should be quality of life and I think this kind of project enhances that deeply and richly and it also challenges us.

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DIY Weekend sees shoppers engaged in live art




Live Art hit the streets of St Helens in July when Hunt and Darton rolled into town to tell us “we’re not local”

The artists duo charmed the locals and attracted huge numbers of visitors to their pop up art café last year. They recently returned with some new faces to take part in the Live Art Development Agency DIY 13, a weekend of combined professional development projects by artists for artists across the UK.

Hunt & Darton offered artists the chance to apply to join them on a whistle stop visit to St Helens. The successful artists joined forces for two days, beginning with a workshop before visiting some of the town’s favourite haunts and finally presenting new work to unsuspecting shoppers in Church Square.

The theme of ‘local’ and creating work for new audiences laid the backdrop for the work and artists had the tough task of engaging busy shoppers. They were encouraged to write down phrases they’d overheard in St Helens, take part in a narrative card game, make friends with an American tourist and pose for a photograph with a story telling stranger.


The new work created a real buzz around the town centre with the former Hunt & Darton Café window full of quotes and many locals pulled out a seat to take part.

Suzanne Dempsey Sawin, Heart of Glass Assistant Producer said “It was a real joy to have Hunt and Darton back and to welcome new and exciting artists to the area. We hosted a lunch time social, which was a great opportunity to introduce the artists to locals, and they spent a lot of time visiting local businesses. The performances felt very at home in Church Square and brought a real buzz to the usual Saturday afternoon shop.

The leaders of the event believed the preparation of the work was the key to its success.

Jenny Hunt, said: “We found leading the workshop together and identifying each others strengths in terms of leadership really useful. We also learnt more about performing to local people, and performing in places that are not local to you and the concerns and celebrations around this. We also learnt a lot from our participants.

“Our love of public performance was re-enforced. We want to do more in St Helens.”

Church Square Shopping Centre manager Steven Brogan said: “I am so pleased that the Heart of Glass project was able to return to the shopping centre, and with such an unusual project by the artists.
“It really got people talking about  what was going on in the town centre, and wanting to be part of the event. Congratulations to all those involved in such a creative initiative.”

DIY was an opportunity for artists working in Live Art to conceive and run unusual training and professional development projects for other artists.  DIY 13 included 20 projects, supported by 20 partner organisations.


Hunt & Darton are coming back to St Helens!

Hunt and Darton Image-2

Everyone’s favourite out of towners Hunt & Darton are coming back to St Helens this summer.

Hunt & Darton, a collaboration between Jenny Hunt & Holly Darton, wowed the town with their pop up art café in Church Square last year.

The duo is rolling in to St Helens again this July to offer artists working in Live Art the opportunity to take part in an unusual training and professional development project.

You’re Not Local is part of DIY 13, a Live Arts Development Agency scheme offering a set of professional development opportunities conceived and run by artists for artists. We are delighted to welcome back Hunt & Darton to work with artists from around the country.

They are now on the search for performers from the local area and beyond to take part in the artist led DIY project.



Jenny Hunt, explained:

“You’re Not Local is about becoming local – contextualising work for a place or context in which you don’t necessarily belong.”

“It’s for artists interested in genuinely socially engaged public work, performing on the streets of St Helens, directly to people who didn’t necessarily know they wanted to see it.”

The project takes place from Thursday, July 7th to Saturday, July 9th in the town centre.

To apply please submit a 500-word expression of interest in participating in You’re Not Local, documentation of recent work (up to 5 images saved as a PDF and/or links to online documentation), and an answer to the following question:

Please describe your current practice and relevant achievements / failures to date?  


Application deadline


14 June 2016, 5pm


Any questions?



Please note that all applications must be done via the online form, rather than being emailed direct to DIY artists.


Blog: Open The Door


St Helens artist Michelle Wren has been leading a project based in The Citadel Theatre. Here is Michelle’s latest blog:

‘Open The Door’

‪We have only been a group for seven weeks and what has happened has been remarkable!

We started the project with the idea of making a game about access in St Helens. But to even start with making that game, we had to make the sessions accessible to everyone. We all have different ways of working and we needed to find the best way to work with everyone.

Our sessions over the weeks have become livelier and everyone has their own role within it.

We begin with sitting in a circle while members of the group teach us all Makaton sign language that we are documenting. We then play different games; darts, tin can alley and boules different people are in charge of setting it up and others enjoy knocking it down. We then separate into our art groups. Everyone in the group enjoys music so each week we have a new playlist playing that includes a playlist of peoples favourite songs.


One group paints abstract paintings to this music with new tools we have made to paint with. Beginning with large paintings with brushes on sticks this group have developed their own styles and are now working on smaller watercolour pieces for the final exhibition. This work will also be transformed into hazard tape to be used along side the work the other group are creating.

‪This group is split in two, half of them have been out and about in town assessing accessibility in St Helens and the other half have been creating artwork to respond to this.

We will be contacting businesses and venues in St Helens over the following week to inform them of our findings and present them with the artwork. This work will be publicly displayed as a hazard sign in contested spaces (that will be taped up in the other groups hazard tape) and as an awarded trophy in accessible places on Monday, May 23rd.  Keep a look or ear out and follow it on twitter #YouAreHere

The whole journey will be on display at our exhibition in The Citadel Theatre on from Wednesday, May 25th until September.

Do you have good or bad access? If so you might be hearing from us soon!

Take care,



Blog Post: Is the town even ours? When we can’t get in or to it?

Game of Access is a new Heart of Glass project made with disabled people from across St Helens and a team of artists including Lead Artist Michelle Wren. Weekly sessions are currently taking place at The Citadel Theatre. The process of the project will result in the creation of a new board game for people to play and explore themes related to access.

Michelle Wren is an artist involved in the project. Read her latest blog on Game of Access here:

“From the power of banana to the relaxation of a bench”

 The project is almost halfway through now. Up to this point we have been gathering information and trialling different creative processes to make the sessions accessible for everyone.

From the power of the banana to the relaxation of a bench, from the glass doors that don’t let you in to falling out of your wheelchair trying to enter buildings.


We are collating this information to make a game, a game about our town and us in it. Is the town even ours? When we can’t get in or to it? This game will allow us to put ourselves “On The Map” and at the same time educate people about our experience.

‪As we enter the second phase of the project we are beginning to collate all the information during separate sessions to design a game to play with the public (dates and venue of sessions to be confirmed, anyone with an interest is welcome).

All the information from the design group will be fed back to the sessions at The Citadel where we will create the artwork and text for the game and do trials of the prototype at the same time as developing more content.

‪Keep your eyes and ears peeled, #OnTheMap you will see us around the streets of town as our work from the sessions is displayed in public art takeovers.

Please remember this project is open for any disabled people to input into and we would love to hear from you!  onthemaponthemap14


Game of Access

St Helens is set to get its very own board game thanks to an art project working in collaboration with disabled people in the borough.

Game%20of%20Access%20StreetWorkshops at The Citadel Theatre will help shape Game of Access, which will be produced and available to play in St Helens.
St Helens artist Michelle Wren is joined by Jude Wood and Ann Whitehurst.

Michelle, said: “We want disabled people to come and help us with ideas for a board game. The game will be for people to play and learn about access. We want to use art and stories to make the game funny, bold and colourful.”

Workshops will be held at the Citadel every Wednesday from 10.00-12.00 beginning on 2nd March. Workshops are free to attend and you don’t need to have a lot of experience in the arts to attend.

Please call, text or email Laura to let us know you are coming on 07926363679 or . We want to make sure that as many people who want to join in can so please let Laura know if you have any access requirements.

Artist Biographies


Michelle Wren

I am an artist from St Helens my work focuses on creating a commentary through visual narratives about the current political or social climates of the area I am working within. I take inspiration from the place and use the stories of its people to create work that inspires positive social change within a community. You can get examples of previous work and projects I have conducted on my website


Jude Woods

Jude Woods combines her visual arts practice, community curatorial projects, groupwork and training with activism. She is a skilled, gregarious facilitator with over thirty years of experience of groupwork and equality training with particular expertise in the field of violence and abuse. She has proven her success at sustaining a freelance career spanning: community arts, equality and diversity training, training consultation, creating original training materials, developing policy and good practice in social care provision and research. This work reflects a long term focus on multiple discrimination and intersectionality informed by research and exploration across the fields of sociology; criminology; social history; art history and visual theory; theories of embodiment, disability and neuro-atypicality; queer theory; feminism; bioethics; and philosophy.


Ann Whitehurst

I’m a disabled, working class, female artist and I believe anything and everything is the material of art making – politics, dreams, landscape, analysis, fabric, image making, words, friendship, actions, films, cooking, love, analysis of our planet and it’s power structures. My work is to challenge the very existence of the ‘norm’ – challenge and so liberate the conforming and their limited and limiting understanding of life, politics and culture. Diversity in body, psychology and awareness doesn’t restrict it advances.