Artist will challenge homophobic abuse in St Helens with public pansy planting

Marking this year’s Homotopia, the UK’s longest running LGBTQ+ arts and culture festival, St Helens has the honour of hosting artist, writer and designer Paul Harfleet for a range of events in libraries across the borough on Friday 1 November.

Paul travels the world to visit sites of homophobic abuse to plant pansies at the nearest source of soil to where the incident occurred as a gesture of quiet resistance and documents the process.

The artist began the Pansy Project by planting flowers on the streets of Manchester to mark his own experience of homophobia but has since visited cities across the country and throughout Europe, the US and Canada to plant them for others.

To date he has planted almost 300 individual pansies at sites of homophobic abuse and hate crime, with one to be planted in Thatto Heath at a public planting event on Friday 1 November, 4:30pm, by Thatto Heath Library.

A pansy planted in Ottawa

It will be a busy day for the artist, who’s also hosting a family friendly author talk and Q&A session at Newton-le-Willows Library at which he will read from his book, Pansy Boy. Then there’s a launch event at Chester Lane Library at 7pm where he will talk about his life, his work and activism and unveil an exhibition of his work that will be on display until 20 November.

The exhibition features a combination of photography, original illustrations and drawings made in local libraries, informed by the Pansy Project and his unique book Pansy Boy. A graphic novel in rhymed couplets and containing beautiful illustrations Pansy Boy tells the story of a boy who revelled in the joys of summer, exploring the flora and fauna around him. Reluctantly he returns to school where he is subjected to incessant bullying. Intelligent and bright, he is driven to reclaim his school.

Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Libraries, said: “I’m proud to welcome Paul back to St Helens following his positive work with local young people earlier this year. We want everyone to know that St Helens is no place for hate crime of any kind, we all deserve #BetterThanThat.”

All events are free to attend, but spaces are limited. Book your space online at

Find out more about Paul and his work at



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