Canvas helps St Helens artist reach online audience

Prototype Project artist Drunk Wolf is taking his work to a new audience.

Canvas, funded by Arts Council England, came to St Helens to meet the artist to showcase his recent solo exhibition at The World of Glass.

St Helens Goes Pop, which draws on his experiences growing up in the town. His pop-art style work reimagines some of St Helens’ most famous characters and landmarks, from Johnny Vegas and Rick Astley to St Helens RFC, alongside lesser-known local characters that he has immortalised in portraits and Star Wars figurines.

The exhibition was made possible by Heart of Glass. The film was produced by Carl Davies of FACT Liverpool and funded by the Arts Council’s Sky Amplify initiative

Canvas is the home of the UK Arts scene on Youtube. Their aim is to inspire younger audiences to explore the wonderful world of art, showcasing videos from some of the UK’s leading arts organisations as well as producing our own series.



Choir project has St Helens singing

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.18.10

Artists Katie Musgrove & Alex Douglas are currently working on a Heart of Glass Prototype Project.

HOG: Tell us a little about your Prototype Project ‘Songs of Hope and Joy?

Katie: ‘Songs of Hope and Joy’ is a collaborative gospel music project between St Helens Gospel Choir (SHGC) and ADM Productions. Over the course of 9 months A

For this project I am picking up my Project Manager hat and am responsible for all the background organisation rather than the creativity or workshop delivery. However, in this context ‘organisation’ requires a certain level of creative thinking.

You’ll be working with St Helens Gospel Choir on the project, how did you introduce the idea to them and what was their response?

We were really keen to run a community based gospel project and, luckily enough, St Helens already has a well established gospel choir! Not only have they been running for around 10 years, but they are absolutely lovely people led by a classical musician keen to learn more about gospel music. Within the first few minutes of visiting them at one of their weekly rehearsals Alex and I knew we could work with them and take them on a musical and personal journey. Would they be up for it? The resounding answer was…YES!

You’re also working with Conductor & Choral Leader, Alexander Douglas. Tell us a little about Alexander and his role in the project?

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.17.55Alex and I have worked together on various music projects for the last 10 years and formed ADM Productions around 18 months ago. ADM Productions works across three genres of music – classical, jazz and gospel – all three of which Alex has expertise in. Unusual? Yes…but then so is Alex! Alex is an African-born-Caribbean who’s lived the majority of his life here in the UK. Coming from a church background, composing, playing and directing gospel music comes as naturally as breathing to him. But, having studied (at Master’s level) Jazz Performance and Classical Choral Conducting he has a few more strings to his bow! Unsurprisingly Alex is the musical force behind this project.

Are you looking forward to working collaboratively?

Definitely! Both Alex and myself love to collaborate…we like to say thSHGC library workshop1at ADM Productions are ‘serial collaborators’ as well have seen time and again how much more can be achieved by working with others….especially others who are different ourselves. This project is designed to give and to share, but we are also very much looking forward to learning too.

Is there anything the general public in St Helens can come along and see?

Yes. We will be holding open gospel workshops for everyone and anyone to come and have a go in the main library (dates/times TBC) and there will be a gig to come to in the Parish Church in November.

What is your ideal result from your project?

There will be so many results during this project – some will be individual and personal, some will be collective and public. Ultimately, we hope that each and every one of those who either take part or listen as an audience member take away with them songs of hope and joy.


Gospel Choir Workshop

Monday, July 18th

St Helens Central Library

Victoria Square

St Helens

WA10 1HP.

Prototype Projects from St Helens artists are to become a reality

Work from eleven St Helens artists is set become a reality following the most competitive round of Prototype Projects.

Prototype Projects is an exciting programme of small and ambitious art projects developed by artists and local creative communities across St Helens.

Now in its fourth iteration, the successful applicants to receive Prototype Project commissions for Round 4 include ideas ranging from: a new collaboration between a composer and the St Helens Gospel Choir to produce new work, creating a new exhibition called St Helens Goes Pop! that infuses pop, graffiti, street and digital art to supporting a young ceramicist to receive professional guidance and mentorship. To date we have supported over 35 projects by local artists and communities.

The decision-making panel (which changes each round) included Hannah Longworth, Curator, The World of Glass, Joan Birkett, an artist awarded a R&D Prototype Project from Round 3, Ant Shea (member of the St Helens Community) and Laura Yates, Participation Manager, The Bluecoat, Liverpool (external guest).

With over 15 applications, competition was high and our panel had some very difficult decisions to make. Patrick Fox, Director of Heart of Glass, said: “This was a really strong round of submissions, and the panel had some tough decisions to make. The aim of this commissioning opportunity is to support artists and communities to try something different, to take a risk and potentially open up new opportunities for future working – the commissioned works all respond to that aim and we are excited to support them to fruition”.


Left to right: Artists: Rhyannon Parry, Briony Machin, Katie Musgrove & Simon Jones]

Prototype Projects (Round 4) will be supporting the following projects (below) and we are also delighted announce our Faculty cohort of artists who will be producing a set of projects during this period:

Projectile Vomit: A Portable Art Installation (Faculty Artist)
Michelle Wren & Simon Jones 

Michelle Wren is an artist, activist and set builder from St Helens who will work collaboratively with musician, VJ and multi-sensory artist Simon Jones to produce a new, interactive installation called Projectile Vomit. Exploring CCTV, humour and colour with a political edge, they will use video mapping & projections to create a unique, animated art and musical experience. With a DJ booth embedded within it, it will host musicians, artists and performances, as well as inviting St Helens musicians to showcase what they do, as part of a Heart of Glass art weekend during October/November.

Briony Machin [R&D]
Recently graduated Briony Machin will spend the next six months developing her professional practice as a ceramicist and artist, where she will get mentoring and guidance from experts within the arts & ceramics sector with the support of Heart of Glass. She will also get the opportunity to attend a research trip to a national craft / ceramic event, because she wants to expand her networks and push her work further to establish herself both locally and nationally. View her work here

St Helens Goes Pop!
Drunk Wolf

Digital artist Drunk Wolf will hold his first solo show in The World Of Glass Museum, in the Godfrey Pilkington Gallery from 30th April 2016. Expect spray paint, digital art and a few other things including work by some of the We Art The Response artist group.

The project looks to utilise pop art styles, as well as pop culture to both celebrate St Helens – its people, places and history, touch upon issues affecting the town as well as current affairs. The project came about after approaching the World of Glass with an initial idea and building upon it to construct a show that people of all ages within the town can relate to through the imagery and subject. Read the interview here.

Songs of Hope and Joy
ADM Productions & St Helens Gospel Choir

Conductor & Choral Leader, Alexander Douglas and Arts Project Manager, Katie Musgrove from ADM Productions will develop a collaborative pilot choral project with The St Helens Gospel Choir. Over the next several months they will deliver a series of gospel music workshops for both the choir and the people of St Helens, compose new music and work towards a final performance in St Helens Parish Church in October/November.

Another Place
Yellow Door Artists (Faculty Artists)

Yellow Door Artists (Rhyannon Parry and Naoise Johnson Martin) will build and develop an artist exchange between St. Helens’ twin town France, Chalon Sur Saone to open new creative connections overseas. St. Helens has a strong link with the French town stretching back 50 years and the artists want to create new, artistic connections with the aim to establish relationships with various artists and organisations. Embarking on a research visit to France in Autumn 2016, they will document their experiences and conversations through photography, drawing & writing and on their return to produce new artworks, culminating in a joint exhibition in St Helens.

A Maze of Displacement
Claire Weetman (Faculty Artists) 

Artist Clare Weetman will research & develop various possibilities surrounding her idea of a maze whose walls are made of people creating emotive gestures with their hands and bodies; whose walls and passageways shift, open and close for people and audiences to explore and experience. Working alongside people, groups and communities who have experience of displacement, she will also work collaboratively with a performer/ dancer/ choreographer who will challenge her artistic approach and bring high quality, performative elements & viewpoints to the artwork.

Ian Driver [R&D]

Sound engineer and music practitioner Ian Driver will research the hidden, underground St. Helens music scene, identifying the musicians and songs of local significance. He will research the different genres of music, find best ways to document their performances and identify if there are young people and/or communities who want to work collaboratively with him to further develop a new archive of local, hidden music.

M62: Trans-Pennine Motorway
Kevin Crooks (Faculty Artist) 

Over the next 6 months, artist Kevin Crooks will produce a new series of work (using film and photography) to explore the social and economic impact the motorway has brought to St. Helens and beyond. He will research the various possibilities surrounding the M62 motorway corridor, which will include working collaboratively with people, groups and communities in the vicinity of the motorway, as well as seeking additional funds, developing new partnerships and considering alternative outlets for the presentation of the work, which will include a new publication.

For more information about Prototype Projects click here

Uplifting exhibition opens in St Helens

Morning Light

St Helens artist Nicola Bibby has opened her photography exhibition in The World of Glass Museum.

The Prototype Project, entitled Narratives and Meaningful Objects is in the museum from Saturday, April 2nd until Thursday 28th April 2016.

With the support of funding from Heart of Glass, Nicola said: “Receiving a Prototype Projects award has afforded me the opportunity to involve myself in specific and tailored photography training with photographer Mark Tattersall. This was invaluable and had a direct input on my approach and completion of this project”.

“Over the last year, I have invited older residents from St Helens to share with me, a memory, a story, or a reflection about an object, which has meaningful attachment to them and can be recorded or documented visually.

“For me, the process has been both rewarding and fulfilling. I recognise a common thread that runs through all of the stories, which has been the essentially positive, always uplifting, and most importantly, life-affirming nature of the stories told to me. People’s generosity of spirit and willingness to share their memories has been key in helping bring my project to life.”

“I hope that my photographs will play their part in documenting moments and experiences from the lives of people from St Helens.”

For more information about Prototype Projects click here

Shadows and Lights St Helens opens soon

The derelict Cannington Shaw furnace is the inspiration for a new art installation that opens in St Helens in April. Shadows and Lights St Helens is a Prototype Project commission by artist Jane Barwood.

The project features a 3D art installation inspired by the derelict Cannington Shaw furnace on the current Tesco car park site.

By allowing visitors to walk inside and around the artwork the artist hopes that people will look at the ruin of Cannington Shaw Furnace in a new way. Jane would like to inspire some sense of renewed pride and hope by engaging people who would not usually experience contemporary art and to encourage creative thinking.


The installation will be accompanied by paintings that highlight the importance of the old industries to the community and social cohesion of the town.

Artist Jane Barwood, said: “The project was developed my interest in derelict buildings and the stories and people attached to them. My paintings often feature buildings, outlines and silhouettes. The effect of lighting and shadow was something I was keen to experiment with. On a visit to the current Pilkington factory I heard that one of the furnaces had been “mothballed” which led to a chain of thought concerning disused things covered with dust sheets like ghosts.”

The Cannington Shaw Furnace was chosen due to its interesting shape and its historical significance, both to St Helens and internationally. Also known as the Number 7 Bottle Shop, it was constructed in about 1886. By 1892 Cannington Shaw was described as the largest works of its kind in the world. In 1913 the furnace fell into disuse and by 1918 was simply used for storage. English Heritage has registered the furnace as an Ancient Monument and described it as “the best surviving example in Britain of a tank furnace glass shop”.

Public viewings of Shadows and Lights in The Beechams Building, Water Street, St Helens, WA10 1PP


Tuesday, April 12th (1-5pm)

Wednesday, April 13th (1-5pm)

Thursday, April 14th (5-7pm)






For more information about Prototype Projects click here

St Helens, Tokyo, Return: An Artist’s Research Trip

Artist Joan Birkett was awarded a Prototype Project [R&D] from Round 3 to explore the possibilities of collaborative art projects between St Helens, UK and Tokyo, Japan. Japanese art and culture has greatly influenced her art practice and she had the opportunity to visit Tokyo to start new dialogues and conversations with contemporary artists and networks.

Here’s an insight into Joan’s research trip:

3rd December | Meeting with Arthur Huang | Café Park, Ebisu

Met with Arthur over food to explain more about my research project. It was a perfect place to meet and an enjoyable and interesting meeting. It was evident almost immediately that he could probably get along with anyone and was going to be a great artist contact. So willing to help and share information was really generous of him!

We were able to have a discussion about the type of art work that Arthur makes, how he manages to do this and his work as a scientist. We talked about  Japanese artists and shared a mutual interest. Have a look at Arthur’s website, his process is really interesting, his memory walks and recording of everyday existence makes for some unexpected and intriguing creative thinking and mark making.

Arthur suggested that I may be interested in joining a group meeting taking place on the following Sunday which involved some of the artists that I had already had email contact with before arriving in Tokyo, called Art Byte Critique Studio work discussion meeting. We also talked about some other networks that I could meet with during my visit such as Canvas and Pecha Kucha.

6th December | Art Byte Critique Studio Meeting | Ikebukuro


I can’t remember whether this photo of the interior of the train was one of our journeys to Ebisu or to Ikebukuro where Arthur has an apartment. It was one of the lines though that doesn’t get too busy so I was able to take a photo without invading anyone’s privacy, well apart from the young man reading his book, but he didn’t seem to notice.

I wanted to show this photo because over the years I have become used to Tokyo trains being very busy and they stay this clean! Can you spot any litter? I think we may have some work to do in the UK!

The Art Byte Critique Studio meeting was held at Arthur’s apartment block. The group hire a room on a regular basis. Not everyone involved in the group was at this meeting, but there were artists Arthur Huang, Lori Ono, Michelle Zacharias, Karin Gunnarson, Josephine and Nick West.


Arthur opened the meeting by introducing us all (including my husband). Once I had explained a bit more about why I was there, we agreed that I would just listen to the discussions and take some photographs.

Each of the artists had brought along a recent piece of work to help them discuss what they were producing or exploring at the moment, whilst receiving feedback from the group. They were also able to share any information of interest or useful in relation to working in Tokyo or further afield.

Art Byte Critique Meeting

There was a real mix of art work and a wide experience of practice within the group. I had researched the works of the artists prior to ariving in Tokyo, but it was really interesting to hear people talk about what they were doing first hand though, process, thinking and experimenting. I can’t thank the artists enough they were so accomodating to the ‘strange couple’ from the North West of England, who just dropped in!P1000125

The artists at the meeting (as far as I know) weren’t originally from Japan (originally from America, Sweden, Canada and UK), but were resident in Tokyo. Individuals within the group did mention Japanese artists with whom they collaborated and all seemed very immersed in the everyday art world of Tokyo and beyond.

Visit the artists websites here:
Karin Gunnarson | Michelle Zacharias | Lori OnoNick West | Josephine Horii |Arthur Huang

There was interest in the St Helens, Tokyo, Return project and Heart of Glass’ programme. People seemed genuinely keen in knowing more and certainly in keeping in touch with what the programme is doing.

13th December | Meeting with Atsu Harada | Seikado Bunko Art Museum, Setagaya

Today I met up with Atsu Harada, his wife Heather and little daughter Mei at the Seikado Bunko Art Museum. Atsu’s work is very much influenced by traditional Japanese painting and he thought that this would be a good exhibition to visit in order to give me some idea about where his influences come from.

My meeting with Atsu and Heather was great and with good company, we were able to see an interesting exhibition called Lineage of Gold and Silver. The works in the exhibition were traditional and the way people viewed the art was also traditional, very ordered, quiet, no photographs allowed. This was understandable as some of the works dated back to the 11 century, almost without question requiring respect just by their presence. There wasn’t a lot of information in English but fortunately Atsu and Heather were able to fill in some of the gaps for us.

There were large wall scrolls and painted screens with a huge expanse of gold or silver space between the subject matter. Although the images were very familiar to me I hadn’t realised before seeing this exhibition that the use of gold and silver was such an important tradition in Japanese art and design. I have therefore been properly introduced to the Rimpa School (or Rinpa) of the Edo period, and the artists Sotatsu, Korin and Hoitsu, and I will definitely be looking more closely at their works.

Exhibition[Scenes from Sekiya and Miotsukushi Chapters of The Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) by Tawaraya Sotatsu]

Whilst seeing in the exhibition, we also discussed our own work. We were able to touch on difficulties faced in the regeneration of post-industrial towns and areas of decline. Heather likening the situation of towns in North West of England to similar difficulties being faced by some of the local urban and rural areas in Japan.

Atsu is busy preparing work for an exhibition with one of his colleagues. He was though very positive about the possibility of some form of collaboration and what was really good was that he was open to just exploring the possibilities.

Heather is editor of a newspaper, although originally from Western United States, she speaks fluent Japanese and offered to help with any translation if required. Heather is also working as an assistant on an English language teaching programme, which goes out on radio; and of course there was the lovely little Mei, aged three. I really appreciated their time and the experience, it was a delight and really informative!


[TOLOT/heuristic SHINONOME Gallery]

A meeting with Matsuoka-San (a colleague of Atsu) was not possible at the time because of personal commitments, she is still interested and has contacted me on my return home. At present taking part in an exhibition in Tokyo, she has offered to send me images of the exhibition which I’m really looking forward to seeing.

Written by Joan Birkett.

Joan Birkett has said “to get the opportunity to visit a new place and test out the possibilities of this project has been really important to my professional art practice. The contacts that I made and the different meetings that I attended were really benefical and essential in establishing good relationships that you can’t achieve via email or Skype. The artists were very interesting and generous with their time. Although their art practice is different to mine, I am equally interested in what they are doing and would be very happy to develop some form of collaborative project with them in the future”.

For more information about Prototype Projects click here

New project tells the stories of St Helens’ miners when the pit closed

When the pit closed… by photographer and writer Alan Smith is a Prototype Project from Round Two, which will exhibit at The World of Glass on Saturday 16th January. Alan has produced a series of black & white photographic portraits taken with a vintage camera, each with a story charting the lives of the ex-pitmen. The exhibition will also include a musical score, composed by Andrew Smith and Craig Sergeant, commissioned to reflect the stories and portraits.

Brian Salkeld, former Sutton Manor colliery miner

“The idea for the exhibition came about last year when I met one of the men at a miner’s event in Sutton. Their average age when they became unemployed was 33 at a time when jobs in industry were shrinking. Most of them had mortgages and young families to feed and each of them had lived through the miners’ strike and the pressures it had brought. The attributes the pit had instilled in the ex-miners undoubtedly helped them to get through,” explained Alan Smith.

He has spent the past year engaging with the ex-miners and says, “The town’s industrial heritage is important and to hear first-hand what it meant for those men to be part of the pit community, 25 years after the mine closed, brings it back to life. This has been a great opportunity for me to develop my practice further.”

Next year marks 25 years since Sutton Manor closed, with nearby Cronton closing in 1984, Bold in 1985 and Parkside in 1991.


Get your free tickets for opening launch of When the pit closed… on Saturday 16th January from 1-3pm.

When the pit closed… will be exhibited in the Godfrey Pilkington Gallery at The World of Glass from Saturday 16th January until Friday 18th March 2016.

Read what the press had to say:
What happened to St Helens’ miners


If you have an idea that would like to discuss with us and/or you are thinking about submitting a Prototype Projects application click here.

St Helens writer works with mentor

Writer, Lynn Gerrard has been supported through our Prototype Projects strand of work to write and develop a new script based on stories and experiences of mental illness. This month, Lynn met up with her mentor Louise Wallwein, an artist, poet & playwright from Manchester, whose work has been performed all over the UK and across the globe, including Glue – a true story based on meetings with her birth mother, three decades after being put up for adoption.

On her experience so far, Lynn said:

I feel the first meeting with my mentor, Louise Wallwein, went very well! Louise has an impressive catalogue of achievements behind her and I am certain that under her mentorship, her experience to date will prove vital to my evolution as both a playwright and as a writer in general.

It was a relief and a delight to find that Louise likes the concept of the play. Indeed, she has given me some useful exercises, books to read, plays to look at and other disciplinary pointers which will no doubt prove crucial to the play’s continuing development. 

Thanks to the mental stimulation provided through this one meeting, I am already considering and utilising various channels of further exploration and am highly encouraged to glean more from our continuing relationship as mentor and mentee. I will be forwarding my first draft of the play to her next month and we will meet again in January to discuss and implement what happens next.

It was difficult at the beginning, but I have finally called my play ‘I’m Not All There’. I chose that name because where I come from that phrase was frequently used as a derogatory term for anyone with mental issues. I want to use that title as a thread within the play because it is quite true….people with mental issues, like myself,  are ‘not all there’……we are so much more than the discriminatory eye perceives!!! And so I feel the title fits the play perfectly given the play’s objectives.”

If you have an idea that would like to discuss with us and/or you are thinking about submitting a Prototype Projects application click here.


Artists reveal designs for empty shop windows

Dos Artists, made up of artists John Guy & Chris McBirnie were awarded a R&D Prototype Projects to develop artworks for empty shop windows in St Helens for their project entitled This Town Is…

Here is an update of what they have been doing over the last six months:

Let us start by introducing ourselves. We are Dos Artists consisting of two local artists, John Guy and Chris McBirnie, whose practice consists of drawing, painting, photography and digital media.

The concept behind the project was to find out what the people of St. Helens thought about the town they live in. We decided that the best way to collect this information would be through social media such as Facebook, as well as collecting data through face to face interactions with the people of St Helens.

The use of social media was very successful in collecting information, as it allowed people to give their opinions in their own time, but also start a dialogue between people about issues related to St. Helens. We invited people to simply finish off the sentence “This Town is…” This tactic created a whole range of responses from people being proud of their heritage and town, with its connections to coal mining, glass production, rugby league success and of course it’s love of pies and other pastry goods. The positive responses were also met with negative comments about the place becoming a ghost town, in reference to the number of empty shops that now existed in the town centre, alongside people’s anger of it becoming a “Pound Town”. Other issues included parking, the removal of benches and the town’s general lack of vision.

The success of the social media posts gained us attention from the Liverpool Echo, where they chose comments that they felt best reflected the survey. The general consensus was that the town had lost its way in recent times, but people were proud to be from St Helens.



We wanted to reflect the opinions collected through illustrations and drawings on empty shop windows. Unfortunately, this is where we have come to a halt with the project. The designs (as you can see) are ready, but finding a suitable location or an empty shop unit is taking much longer than anticipated. In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have made the project so site specific, but we will continue to find a suitable window/location to illustrate our designs.

This project has been a real eye opener and learning curve in terms of the difficulties posed by trying to develop a temporary public artwork for an empty shop, as it can take a long time to find or even get a response from the landlord, as well as then trying to persuade the private landlord or local council to offer their space on a temporary lease for artists to use. 

As a result of this R&D period, our project is moving into a new direction, where we are in the early stages of wanting to create a short animation based on the style and aesthetics of a 16-bit computer game, similar to the games played in the 80’s/90’s, such as Super Mario. It is very much in the early concept stages, but we hope to showcase it in the new year.

For more information on accessing empty spaces/ shops for temporary exhibitions or community projects read this article by Artquest.

For more information about Prototype Projects click here

Newton-le-Willows residents get artistic with upcycled furniture

An exhibition of upcycled furniture produced by the Newton-le-Willows residents was on display in Earlestown Market last month, as part of a project called 22 Dragons.

Paula & Piotr Pietrzak, co-founders of Passsoul Studio based in Newton-le-Willows were awarded a Prototype Projects commission for Round 3 to develop a series of upcycling furniture workshops designed specifically for a group of visually impaired individuals from Newton-le-Willows.

Passoul_high res_7 Passoul_high res_11

Passoul_high res_16









Watch the interviews with artists Paula & Piotr Pietrzak and hear what participants Elaine Holman and David Hamnett had to say about the project.

The upcycled furniture for 22 Dragons will be exhibited in St Helens Central Library in the new year.

For more information about Prototype Projects click here.

Read what the press had to say:
Project helps visually impaired residents get artistic…