Heritage project is music to children’s ears

Author Tracy Spiers with pupils at one of the workshops

The history of St Helens Borough is being brought to life by children thanks to the help of colourful characters Coaly and Paney.

The two are the stars of new project The Canary Sings, being created by author Tracy Spiers, all with the help of young people from schools across St Helens as part of the St Helens Ambassadors programme.

Tracy is a journalist and illustrator who works with children to bring ideas and learning to life through her drawings. She has created Coaly, a canary shaped like a piece of coal and Paney, a pane of glass as the story guides for the project.

Tracy said: “Coaly the canary digs deep to uncover the hidden historic treasures of St Helens whilst Paney reflects what’s good about the past and how it can shape the future. Canaries were instrumental in the working mines acting as a warning device against poisonous gas and thus helping to save miners’ lives. This project is about enabling Coaly and ultimately St Helens find their voice again.”

The project sees children from all schools signed up to the Ambassadors programme come together to research a different aspect of St Helens’ history such as the coal and glass industry, famous people or Stephenson’s Rocket. They use their new-found knowledge to then create a piece of artwork or creative writing that will help to write a book.

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of St Helens Council and Cabinet Member for Developing Young People, said: “St Helens Borough’s rich heritage puts our town firmly on the map for innovation with a number of world firsts that have proven instrumental in modern life. It taps into children’s passions for creativity and thirst for knowledge and helps them to recognise the amazing things that happened in their community. This project is the perfect opportunity to show young people who are our future what can be achieved in our borough and inspire them to go on and achieve great things.”

Eamonn MacManus, chairman of the St Helens Economy Board: “The St Helens Ambassadors Programme is delighted to work with ambassador schools on this project. A key focus of the Ambassador Programme is for pupils to learn from their own heritage and cultural experiences to raise aspirations and prepare them for future studies and employment.”

Once the work is all collated the book is set to be unveiled in spring next year alongside an exhibition of the children’s work.

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