Thought provoking acts in Baa Baa Baric

A series of thought provoking acts will take place in St Helens on Thursday, September 28th as part of a long-term artist residency project.

Artist Mark Storor has been leading workshops as part of Baa Baa Baric: Have You Any Pull? a twelve-year undertaking in collaboration with the people of St Helen’s and Heart of Glass.

Storor has partnered with Merseyside Police, St Helens Youth Council, Change Grow Live, St Helens Young Carers, St Helens YMCA, Rainford Technology College and St Peters Primary School.

The project poses the question: Is the most brutal act of barbarism civilisation?

In a radical act of rebellion Baa Baa Baric harnesses the powers of creativity, imagination and possibility, refuting labels and challenging the status quo.

An enactment, a visual manifesto and a fairy tale, Baa Baa Baric Have You Any Pull? is an artwork that recognises the mighty strength of our youngest children to take on the challenges of the world, gives older men in St Helens a voice from beyond the grave and communities a platform to share wisdom and dance to a different tune.

Baa Baa Baric – Thursday, September 28th

Key timings

9am – 10am 

Groups of young people, named The Army of Beauty, will be giving out around 2,500 posies of flowers to people in the town centre.

8am – 7pm (From Thursday to Saturday)

A small shed will be situated on top floor of a car park in a rectangle of earth, through headphones a soundtrack made from recordings of the town will be heard.

12pm – 4pm

Merseyside Police Officers and Cadets will take over a chip shop in St Helens Town Centre for the afternoon to highlight child poverty in the borough.

1.30pm – 2pm

Two mounted police horses with flowers flowing from their manes and tails will lead a precession of young people through St Helens.

2pm – 2.30pm

The Army of Beauty will arrive outside St Helens Town Hall. Significant members of St Helens Council and St Helens Children’s Services will approach the hall and read a legacy statement. One child will hand the statement to the leader of St Helens Council.


Artists and skateboarders create new skateboard park for St Helens

St Helens town centre will have a new public artwork in 2018 – that will take the form of a skateboard park and public space.

Studio Morison, Heather Peak and Ivan Morison have been commissioned to develop the design. The artists, who are leaders in public art and public space, have been researching with St Helens skateboarders and skateboard experts since Spring this year.

As part of the research 40 skateboarders from St Helens travelled with Studio Morison to Stoke Plaza Skate Park and Projects in Manchester and Preston for inspiration.

The project is being lead by a committee that includes Heart of Glass, Merseyside Police, St Helens Council, 51st Skate and the local skateboarding community. Studio Morison are developing workshops with the committee and the skateboarders to ensure the design will be suitable.

The project successfully gained funding from POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) and Heart of Glass through their Art Council England Creative People and Places fund and CAPP (A Creative Europe funded programme) investments.

Patrick Fox Director of Heart of Glass said:“The popularity of the trip to Stoke with Studio Morison and local skateboarders really showed us the appetite for this project. The passion of Heather and Ivan is matched by the skateboarding community and I think this is a brilliant opportunity to create something special for St Helens. It has been a long time coming for the skateboarders of St Helens to have an area to develop and showcase their skills – as well as a unique and beautiful space. No other town or city will have a park like this – a bespoke public artwork that will elevate the way people experience skateboarding in the town.”

National Portfolio Organisation announcement

Heart of Glass is delighted to announce that we have been offered National Portfolio Organisation regular funding from the Arts Council England.

Building on our work to date since our inception in 2014, our proposal will see us establish Heart of Glass as a national collaborative arts commissioning agency from our base here in St Helens, Merseyside.

Founded in 2014 by an initial investment of £1.5 million from Arts Council England through the Creative People and People scheme, we established as an independent entity in 2016 and continue to be an active member of the Creative People and Places network.

This new funding support will see us build from this base and expand our role as a nationally significant organisation brokering the reciprocal relationship between contemporary arts and modern society, a champion for interdisciplinary, cross art-form and cross-sector collaborative practice, and a powerful and provocative conduit for new ideas.

Our Director Patrick Fox said: “Our on-going mission is to support artists and communities (of place / interest) to collaborate and realise ambitious contemporary artwork that reflects and responds to the politics of our times. We work across context and across art form and through our projects and initiatives we wish to create a space for dialogue, research and experimentation, placing art in direction interaction all areas of life that form society – this work is vital, more so now than ever. People both individually and within communities of place or interest are central to both our thinking and our practice and this funding opportunity and support will allow us to go deeper and wider – we look forward to collaborating.”

Joanna Rowlands, Chair of Heart of Glass, said: “We’re delighted to hear that Heart of Glass has received NPO funding from the Arts Council. It will enable us to become the national agency for collaborative and social arts practice. Proud to be rooted in St Helens, we’ll create ambitious cultural projects where the community are at the heart of the idea and the process.”

The Heart of Glass ethos is rooted in collaborative and social practice and embodies the principle of partnership. Our core value, philosophy and approach is founded on co-production with the community and the active participation of the collaborator, non-artist, audience and viewer, in the creation of meaning. Over the coming years we will continue to produce specialised projects and resources for those who make, watch, research, study, teach, produce, present, write about and archive collaborative and social arts practice.

Eamonn McManus, Chair of St Helens RFC and Chair of the St Helens Economy Board, said: “This Arts Council announcement is an endorser of that ambition and further reinforces St Helens growing reputation for arts and culture activity. As an Economy Board and Ambassadors for St Helens we know how important arts and culture will be and it is great to see such an investment being made in the borough.”All aspects of our work are informed by issues of difference and diversity, and our work is made, of and for St Helens and every community in which we work.”

We will be making further announcements in the coming months, leading up to the commencement of this investment phase in April 2018.

For more information on Heart of Glass, please download A Modest Proposal – our forward strategy and development plan.

Praxis Volume One: Of People, Place and Time, our first publication detailing work to date is also available HERE.

In My Place returns

After a host of performance in the borough in 2015 we are delighted to be welcoming the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra back to St Helens.

An ensemble will perform specially commissioned shows at homes and workplaces across St Helens.

St Helens residents can apply now until 7 July for the free performances that will take place on 24 and 25 July.

Kat Dempsey, of Heart of Glass, said: “In My Place is a project which creates unique opportunities for people in St Helens to engage with arts and culture on their own doorstep.

“We are delighted to fully roll out the programme with more opportunities for once in a lifetime performances in people’s homes.”

There’s no strings attached, you can apply now for a free performance as long as you’re in St Helens.

You can enter by calling 01744 623290, e-mail with the subject: In My Place or post applications to Heart of Glass, Water Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1PP

To apply please include:

– Your name and address

– Up to 100 words on why you are interested in hosting a performance at your home or workplace.

Artists supported in fifth round of Prototype Projects

Heart of Glass is delighted to be supporting seven new projects through the latest round of Prototype Projects, our commissioning strand that supports artists and communities in St Helens to develop new ideas and creative explorations.

A total of over £4000 was allocated to support one Prototype Project (up to £2000) and five Research & Development (R&D) projects (up to £500). The ideas for this round include commissioning new artwork for a young people’s space in St Helens Central Library alongside professional development support for artists working across a range of disciplines including performance and live art. We have supported over 40 projects by local artists and communities to date.

The decision-making panel (which changes each round) included: Carmel Baines (Community Arts Manager, The Citadel), Ann-Marie Owens (Founder, Pheonix Apparel), Laura Robertson (Co-Founder and Editor of The Double Negative magazine) and Rhyannon Parry (artist and previous Prototype Project award recipient).

Prototype Projects (Round 5) will be supporting artists working on the following projects:

Wendy Mumford (R&D)

Wendy Mumford will spend the next six months developing her professional practice as a textile artist and her recently established collaboration with St Helens based agencies who support people experiencing mental health difficulties. To support this Wendy will benefit from mentoring, networking and research opportunities.

Cath Shea (R&D)

Artist Cath Shea will work closely with London based writer and performance artist Ursula Martinez to explore the potential of a longer-term collaboration to transform a series of monologues created for alter-ego Kitty O’Shea into a live art piece.

Mike Lindley (R&D)

Mike Lindley will focus on developing his fledgling practice as an artist and performer inspired by his ongoing collaboration with artist Mark Storor as part of the Heart
of Glass commission Baa Baa Baric: Have You Any Pull?. Using a portrait of himself created with Storor as a starting point, Mike will develop a live performance as well as ideas for new participatory work exploring notions of regret.

Jacqui Priestley (R&D)

Jacqui Priestley will spend the next six months accessing research, workshop and networking opportunities that will enable her to develop her artistic practice, specifically in relation to socially engaged arts practice and an investigation of memory and lost narratives through collaboration with dementia sufferers.

Fiona Sterling & Amy Russell (R&D)

Artists Fiona Sterling and Amy Russell will undertake
a period of research and development to explore the position of women with children in the workplace and the contemporary art world. To support this they will receive mentoring from one or more female artists / curators / producers whose practices address similar ideas.


Reading Hack

Reading Hack, a group of young volunteers aged 13 to 24 years based at St Helens Library, will work closely with Heart of Glass to commission, and work in collaboration with, an artist to create a clearly identifiable, animated and engaging space within the Library for young people to use.


Second conference focuses on key topics

More than 100 people came to St Helens in May for second With For About conference held by Heart of Glass and AxisWeb.

The conference, titled With For About: Art, Activism & Community, took place at Friends Meeting House 16 invited speakers leading the discussion.

The audience joined them to explore three conversations on the fierce and urgent questions facing collaborative and social art today. Beyond the Rhetoric, On Collaboration and Solidarity and Action were all topics for the day with guests travelling from across Europe to attend.

Patrick Fox, Director of Heart of Glass, explained: “Using a series of statements as provocations by leading thinkers in the field, we explored collaboration, language and our role as artists, producers and commissioners in an ever-changing socio-political landscape.”

“Our programme is rooted in collaborative and social practice and embodies the principle of partnership. Our core value, philosophy and approach is founded on co-production with the community and the active participation of the collaborator, non-artist, audience and viewer, in the creation of great art. People both individually and within communities of place or interest, are central to both our thinking and our practice.”

“We partnered with Chrissie Tiller, idle women and Axisweb to produce the even and feel moments like this are an important part of our ongoing work, creating a space for debate and reflection, a critical space in which to examine our work, and the work of others internationally with a view to professionally developing our practice.”

Ticket offer for St Helens residents

We are offering you the chance to book complimentary tickets for a unique choral performance in the town centre this weekend (Saturday & Sunday May 20 & 21).

A limited number of free tickets are now available to residents in the borough using the online code LOCAL.

This offer is limited to the those living in the borough and will expire on at 9pm on Monday, May 14th.

Refrain will see historic sites of St Helens are set to host a unique choral performance this spring, devised by composer Verity Standen, performed by local male singers.

The performances will roam throughout the George Street area. Ordinarily closed buildings, including the Friends Meeting House and the Masonic Hall, will open their doors to singers and audiences to explore at some point.

Audiences will gather in the grounds of the oldest building in St Helens (Friends Meeting House) and be invited to roam this historic area, brought to life by song. The meeting place for REFRAIN will be confirmed by email.

Award-winning composer and choir leader Verity Standen, with local men has responded to the history of school teacher, Ernest Everett. Everett was a conscientious objector, tried and sentenced in St Helens.

Saturday 20th May – 4pm & 6pm Sunday 21st May – 1pm & 2:30pm.

All ages welcome. Tickets without the promotion code are £8/ £6

Online Promotion Code: LOCAL

To book tickets visit or phone 0117 930 4282.

REFRAIN is produced by Situations with Verity Standen Projects, in partnership with English Heritage, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Heart of Glass, St. Helens. REFRAIN is generously
supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, The Space and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The People’s Bank of St Helens

There will be one bank open in St Helens Town Centre this May day (May 1st) – but it will an alternative bank.

Artists Michelle Wren explained: “We are opening an alternative bank! The bank of St Helens. But the only profit this bank hopes to make is in building community, inspiring positive action and having fun doing.

As a mark of respect for the Chicago workers who fought for an 8 hour working day the bank will be open between 9am and 5pm this May 1st in a shop on your high street.

“Come and open a High Interest Account and get involved in a series of free art workshops and creative actions that bring inspiration from all over the world to St Helens.

This is a great way to spend your bank holiday with your kids, friends or family or come alone and meet lots of great people from our town.”

When the working days end the bank will be transformed into a cinema, where people will watch award winning Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’ from 6pm.

All activities are free (including film) and open to everyone this will be a really inspiring and fun way to spend your May Day. We would love to see you there!

The location for this project is 12 Church Street, St Helens (former Phones4U shop)

Creative action activities and discussion from 9am-5pm, lunch break 12pm-1pm bring something to share and screening of ‘I Daniel Blake’ 6.30pm-8.30pm.

Artists involved in this project include Michelle Wren, Ruth Dyer, Claire Weetman, Helen Oxley, Catherin Mugonyi and Kerry Morrison.


2020 Vision

A live event and a town centre exhibition are set to take place in St Helens as part of a six-month residency project.

2020 Vision: An exhibition exploring the future of our world is being led by artist Sophie Mahon. Sophie has been working with young people from Parr, Fingerpost and FourAcre to explore ideas around their visions for the future as well as creating a number of works based on their present day experiences.

As part of the residency, work will be shared with the public via a live event, town centre promotion and an exhibition.

The project, in partnership with Helena Homes Make It Happen project, has lead to a host of exciting future events and outcomes. Firstly, a free to attend live event takes place at Derbyshire Hill Family Centre on Friday (April 21st).

The event is led by a group of free runners and gymnasts from Parr who will be showing off their skills. The free runners move from building and object while performing jumps and other skilful moves.

The group has been working with Sophie and alongside professional free runners coaches on a live visual performance.

Friday’s event will showcase their work in a live visual performance at the centre from 5.30pm.

Following the showcase work from the project will be housed in a disused town centre shop from May 4th-21st.

Sophie explained: “The show looks at the worst and best possible outcomes for the future. The show includes a range of paintings, interactive video works and sculptures and spreads beyond the pop up space as well as shop windows in and around Church Square and throughout community spaces in St Helens.”

The exhibition will be signposted to people across the borough and a private view takes place on Thursday, May 4th (from 4pm-6.30pm).

Image: A quote from a young participant that will be used on the digital traffic management boards in St Helens.

Blog: Kitty O’Shea’s back in town

Artist Cath Shea was recently awarded Heart of Glass Research and Development Prototype Project funding. Here is the story of her project so far:

I applied for the project to undertake two workshops with writer, performance artist and director Ursula Martinez, working with my alter ego Kitty O’Shea.

I made a few works with Kitty some years ago but sadly not enough. Singing her heart out for over a decade at the legendary Dollman Disco in Liverpool has kept Kitty alive but she had largely retreated until strange forces conspired to bring her out to play again; various opportunities offered by Heart of Glass in 2015 provided me with the opportunity to explore Kitty further.

Firstly Scottee invited Kitty to perform at his TakeOverFest. Next came the opportunity to take part in a two day cabaret performance workshop, Don’t Wait Tables, a Live Arts Development Agency DIY project. It was here that I was first privileged to work with Ursula Martinez as she helped participants to prepare for performances at Duckie, to be held at the Citadel as part of the Through the Looking Glass weekend of live art in St Helens.

‘What, Kitty doesn’t say anything? She just comes on and sings?’ Ursula piped up at the workshop.

Oh no, we need some back story’ she added.

Kitty only said about three lines at her Duckie performance but I knew that Ursula was right; Kitty does have a back story and I have been slowly exploring this through short monologues ever since.

Until Don’t Wait Tables, I had never taken part in a purely performance based workshop. The immediacy of changing a work in the moment was a revelation to me, ‘Do it like this’, ‘No try it this way’; such a very different approach to developing work than those I experienced during Fine Art training. Performance feels so much more exciting, albeit terrifying, to me as well.

To develop Kitty, I took part in Dream Audience workshops in Cardiff in 2016. Led by performance artist, Karen Christopher, the workshops provided a supportive environment to show new and unfinished ‘stuff’ to other performance artists also developing new work. I had really enjoyed working with Karen previously as part of This Will Never Happen, one of the other Heart of Glass opportunities that led me to performing. I knew I would get a lot from working further with Karen and sure enough by November 2016 at the end of the Dream Audience workshops, I had three short monologues, a starting point for a new work.  So where next?

Elated from the experience of performing and the encouragement from Karen I remembered Ursula’s offer at the end of the Don’t Wait Tables workshops ‘If any of you want me to do some direction work with you, just ask. I may say no, it just depends what I’m up to at the time, but feel free to ask’.

I had always kept this in my mind as an opportunity I shouldn’t miss. Now seemed like the perfect time; a chance to work again with ‘the’ Ursula Martinez, the woman who had encouraged Kitty to speak in the first place. I was lucky that Ursula had some time in December, so shortly after being awarded the R&D Prototype project, I hired a rehearsal space at the Cockpit in London and spent two sessions with Ursula.

In preparation, I had brought together the three separate monologues that I had written for Kitty into one piece lasting about an hour. It didn’t really work as a total piece but it was a starting point.

Having performed the work for Ursula, she tore it apart (in the nicest possible way) and put it back together again in a totally different order, removing some parts completely, stripping other parts back and adding new sections.

Ursula questioned elements of the work, feeling that I was speaking sometimes as Kitty and sometimes as Cath; ‘I’m confused’ she said. She directed me in the staging of each element and in how to change the tone of the piece to suit different parts of the work – all in just six hours!

I was amazed at how much we achieved in this short time. I feel that it pushed the work onto the next stage, even though as Ursula said ‘it still needs a lot of work’ both in terms of the piece ‘and performatively.’

Ursula kindly offered to take a further look at my script when I re-work it. If I should be lucky again in the future that Ursula is available and willing,  I will undoubtedly, approach her to do some further direction work with me. The experience of working with Ursula for these two sessions was totally inspiring and such a fantastic experience.

I am extremely grateful to Heart of Glass for the opportunities which led me back to exploring Kitty again and for the Prototype Project R&D which enabled me to work further with Ursula.

Kitty O’Shea’s back in town – look out in 2017 for her National Treasure Road Show!

Photo by John Holden