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St Helens to bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018

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Photo: ‘The Your Name Here’ Heart of Glass project saw the Lyons Yard park named after local resident, Vera Page

With 2018 marking the borough’s 150th anniversary, St Helens is setting out its vision to host the Great Exhibition of the North in the summer of 2018.

Ideally placed in the Liverpool City Region, the two month long event which celebrates the best of art, culture and design to help boost the economy in the northern regions, would link into the wider celebrations of Liverpool’s ten year anniversary of European City of Culture also taking place in 2018. Demonstrating connectivity in the region and beyond, St Helens plans to reach out to satellite programmes across the North.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The North is renowned for its art, culture and design and the Great Exhibition of the North will promote this creativity to the world.

“The exhibition will showcase the best the region has to offer, and provide a real boost to local tourism and an important cultural legacy.

“St Helens has a proud artistic and industrial history and boasts some wonderful cultural institutions, and I am sure it will enter a strong bid.”

Sir Gary Verity, chairman of the Great Exhibition of the North board, added: “The Great Exhibition of the North will showcase the best of our art, design and culture to the world in 2018 and will help bring the whole region together.

“I look forward to seeing the high quality bids from towns and cities across the North.”

The Leader of St. Helens Council, Barrie Grunewald recently announced plans to place arts, culture and innovation at the forefront of the town’s wider regeneration including St. Helens’ intention to raise ambition.

“With 2018 marking the borough’s 150th anniversary, I believe it is about time people were reminded about the debt owed by the world to local industrial pioneers,” he said.

“I want to re-capture that ambition again – starting today.

“We were a centre for industry, for innovation and for art and culture. We were at the forefront of modern technologies and our people aimed high. We were a place people wanted to be and where things got done.

“St Helens gave the world the modern railway, canals, and powered the industrial revolution with our coal. We were the first Northern Powerhouse. In short, this town led the way in new industries and technological change – and we need to have the ambition to do so again.”

This ambition is the starting point for the town’s wider regeneration plans which underpin St Helens’ Great Exhibition of the North bid.

Working with academic, business and cultural partners in the North, St Helens is ideally placed in the Liverpool City Region to showcase a world-class Great Exhibition of the North focusing on innovation and a creative future.

Traditionally famous for rugby and glass, St Helens has also become known as the home to Dream, the iconic 20-metre high internationally significant artwork by artist Jaume Plensa. The project was the star of Channel 4 TV series the Big Art Project, with Sutton Manor Colliery being one of only seven locations in the UK selected to take part. As Jaume himself said “when we dream, anything is possible” which St Helens has continued to do and is rapidly gaining a reputation for excellence in the arts.

On a recent visit to St Helens, Arts Council England’s Chief Executive, Darren Henley said: “It was great to meet the cultural leaders in St Helens and I really got a sense of how they are creating opportunities for local people to get involved in the arts.

“As part of my job as chief executive of the Arts Council I have been meeting people around the country who make arts and culture great – I have met some inspirational teams and have seen first-hand the fantastic work they are doing, and St Helens is no exception.

“Heart of Glass project is doing some remarkable work changing the lives of people through arts and culture and I was really interested to hear of the partnership behind this and its connection to tradition such as Rugby League.

“I also visited St Helens Library and heard about the Cultural Hubs programme which is transforming library spaces into hubs for arts activities.

“At the Arts Council we want to continue to invest in developing St Helens as a place where people can enjoy great arts and culture.”

The Cultural Hubs have been made possible through Arts Council investment through the Grants for the Arts Libraries Fund. Whilst Heart of Glass has been supported through Arts Council investment through the Creative People and Places programme, and through a long term partnership with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) who will join the bid.

Other partners from the region and beyond include National Museums Liverpool, Dadafest, Live Art Development Agency, University of Liverpool and the Institute of Cultural Capital.

St Helens itself has a vast wealth of rich and vibrant culture on its doorstep thanks to a number of local venues including the World of Glass museum, The Citadel arts centre, Theatre Royal St Helens, the Northwest Museum of Road Transport and Langtree Park Stadium.

A fertile arts scene in the borough is kept alive through Platform artist studios and graduate retention in the town from art and design students attending the University Centre, St Helens College. St Helens continues to build on its cultural assets and success as it bids to host the Great Exhibition of the North.

St Helens Council’s portfolio holder for arts and culture, Councillor Jeanie Bell, said: “St Helens want to use the arts, culture and sport as tools to change the way people think about their place and about how they live their lives.

“St Helens would proudly shout about what is so great about the North in this Great Exhibition delivered in the heart of the North West.”

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Photo: Poet, Lynn Gerrard visits St Helens Central Library for the launch of her new book, ‘Musings and Mischief’. Pictured with Sue Williamson, Head of Library Services
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Photo: School children got involved in the creation of an ‘Escape Room’ at Central Library last summer

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