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Heart of Glass / A Modest Proposal


600 people, a youth brass band and 40 on-pitch performers in a surreal meditation on crowds, power and collective action.


And, of course, culturally. Our exploration of how artists, communities and individuals fit, expand and confound the social formations that characterise St Helens as a post- industrial town saw every show and performance in the 2015 TakeOverFest sell out. Such is the beauty and potency of co-production. This is not remote art that is manufactured and orchestrated in absentia, to be presented and engaged with at distance; it is art without prejudice that seeks to work with people in liberating artistic and creative talent and expression. We have seen this liberation extend to the diverse, and sometimes hidden, or in some cases overlooked, communities in St Helens that have got involved in our programme and through it found a new visibility; a new voice.


Heart of Glass brings a range of art and ways of interacting with art to everyone, without compartmentalising or segmenting audiences. Our programme is mixed art form and incorporates a diverse range of art and artists, placing them in direct interaction with all areas of human activity that form society. It operates across the whole spectrum of participatory practice, from artists working with communities as a point of inspiration and research, to co-creation and joint ownership of production, as well as highly interactive work which requires high levels of engagement and audience participation in order to come to life. Audience members are not only exposed to different artistic perspectives through a series of curated and intimate artistic moments, but also through programming which engages with the very fabric of the town, to enable them to encounter incidental, but powerful, cultural experiences. This is real-time audience development that looks beyond the postcode.


The Heart of Glass vision is to create an arts ‘ecology’ for St Helens that supports a vibrant and sustainable arts sector, which is valued locally, and recognised nationally and internationally; establishing a model of collaborative best practice through which artists and communities are supported to make ambitious work of artistic excellence, and encouraged to share insights and learning with the wider cultural sector.


The purpose of this document is to set out the strategic thinking behind a robust, innovative and exciting three-year work plan for the programme, to explore scope for further innovation and development over the next five years, and to contextualise that short and medium-term delivery within a vision for potential growth spanning the next ten years.


Rugby, and particularly Rugby League is synonymous with St Helens and we have been inspired by how it has become embedded in the community. Through long- term engagement and building trusted relationships, it has been able to contribute significantly to the town’s ongoing transformation. Mainly because of the harsh realities of funding and time, those long-term relationships are a rare privilege in the arts. Through the Creative People and Places programme and under the umbrella of action research, we have an opportunity to take that time, to build those trusted relationships and to work with the people of St Helens as empowered and proactive cultural citizens; harnessing the transformative power of art to articulate the town’s current identity and shape its future reality.


Our future is bound up together. –DUCTION


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