CHAMPION boxer turned movie actor Gary Stretch will return to his hometown next week to help promote St Helens’ unheralded links with Hollywood.

Stretch, star of Alexander and Dead Man’s Shoes, takes a break from his schedule in the United States, for the St Helens Discovers public art event.

It celebrates the likes of Harry Potter director David Yates, from West Park, big screen sound inventor George Groves, and Stretch himself, who grew up in Haresfinch.

A key part of the project will see a yet-to-be revealed interactive sculpture installed in St Helens town centre for five weeks.

Ex-Cowley pupil Stretch, who is currently filming boxing documentary The Safest Place on Earth, said: “St Helens has got a lot to celebrate – in terms of its industrial and sporting heritage.

“But the St Helens Discovers project really does make you realise there’s a lot more to the town than most people think.

“Even working as an actor in Hollywood, I wasn’t aware of the range of connections that my hometown had with the film business.

“And to think those connections go right back to the golden era of the film studios is a real eye-opener.

“I’m really proud of my roots and I’m sure the St Helens Discovers project will help a lot of other people see St Helens in a whole new light.”

St Helens Historical Society Research Group has played a key role in verifying much of the information about the town's movie connections, which have been reported by the Star down the decades.

Councillor Barrie Grunewald, deputy leader of St Helens Council, said: “A lot has been said and written about the traditional aspects of St Helens’ past, but there’s so much more to the town than the glass industry and its mining heritage – important though those things are.

“The beauty of St Helens Discovers is that many of the lesser known facts and connections have been highlighted by local people.

“So really it’s a tribute to all that local knowledge and pride that we’ve been able to put together such a comprehensive tribute to our hidden cultural gems.”

St Helens Discovers is a part of a project being jointly run with Liverpool and Wirral councils, funded by European grants, that will see all three places turn amazing facts about their history and culture into and interactive art installations.

They will range from a giant mosquito, to a futuristic machine, and what are described as the world’s “first musical lamp posts”.

St Helens will have a map that will show visitors around its points of interest.

These can be picked up for free from MASH Gallery, World of Glass, the Citadel Arts Centre and the Godfrey Pilkington Art Gallery.

For more information, please contact Chantal Barton on 0781 455 7487, email or see