Inclusive arts exhibition led by children launches in library

Young people from St Helens have been leading creative workshops in their schools as Arts Ambassadors, working to create an inclusive arts exhibition that is now on display in Haydock Library.

The exhibition is inspired by artist Paul Harfleet’s picture book Pansy Boy, with whom the young Arts Ambassadors have been working in recent months.

In the book – a graphic novel written in rhyming couplets, and illustrated by Paul – a young boy tackles homophobia in school by planting pansies at the site of homophobic attacks, taking strength from the flowers and birds he loves and empowering his school to value what is delicate and different.

Arts Ambassadors led creative workshops in St Augustine of Canterbury Catholic High, Holy Cross Primary, Grange Valley Primary, Allanson Street Primary and Sutton Oak Primary, with artwork contributing to the exhibition on display in Haydock Library, until 18 July.

Among the artwork on display are series of paper craft birds and flowers bearing inspirational messages, and a collection of bird egg nests, made using natural materials like leaves, berries, and evergreen pine branches, all inspired by Pansy Boy’s attention to plants and animals.

Students involved in the project will all achieve Bronze Arts Awards, a nationally recognised qualification that demonstrates young people’s participation in arts in the community.

The project was coordinated by St Helens Library Services and Cultured – St Helens Cultural Education Partnership, which works with schools and the community to build on the borough’s strong cultural offer. It features as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs arts in libraries programme.

Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Libraries, said: “I’m really proud of the work these young people have done, in learning from artist Paul Harfleet, and in taking the lead in their own schools with other children and young people. Together they’ve created something really unique, using our library space in Haydock in new and interesting ways – something we love to do with our Cultural Hubs programme.”

The exhibition comes ahead of St Helens’ first ever Pride festival in the town centre on Saturday 10 August, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and calling for equality.

Cultural Hubs is funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Council’s Library Service, which is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

To find out more about Pansy Boy, and the wider Pansy Project, visit www.thepansyproject.com.

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