THE reaction of people to the town's flourishing arts scene has been "like a tidal wave", according to the man whose team has been tasked with reviving the town's creative confidence.

Director of Heart of Glass, Patrick Fox, says the town has "an energy to it", as well as a fascinating history and strong heritage which can be tapped into for art projects.

Patrick, who worked on the Liverpool Capital of Culture, said: "St Helens has a strong creative community and Heart of Glass is putting a formal structure around it and bringing people together."

A local park was renamed in the 'Your Name Here' project, which was entered by hundreds of people. Empty shops in the town centre have been taken over by artists in residence and each Friday a new artwork, inspired by the week's events, appears unannounced somewhere in town.

Funded by Arts Council England, Heart of Glass is a 10-year programme with a remit of engaging the community in the arts.

Patrick said: "A survey was carried out to identify areas of low engagement with the arts – there were 20 or 25 places below national and regional average. St Helens was one of these.

"It is bookended by major cities where there is a lot happening. So people will tend to leave town for the arts rather than stay or come into it."

He added: "There's a good vibe in St Helens, a really interesting mix, there's the rural belts and fascinating history, the glass, the canal. Before doing this, we were not sure we'd get a reaction, but it's been the opposite, like a tidal wave – there's an energy about the place. People are open to new ideas.

"St Helens is the right size, the population is the right size, to feel the effects of this quite quickly. The town's reputation is already changing. It feels more risky and exciting."

He says the area's lack of financial prosperity and high deprivation levels will benefit from the knock-on effects of a booming arts scene.

"We may be living through the aftermath of the financial crisis but people need arts when times are bad," he said. "It's a way of making sense of the world in challenging times and it has a positive effect on health, confidence and even employment.

"Since Capital of Culture in Liverpool, people have a sense of pride and a spring in their step. Liverpool is riding the storm better than it would have 15 or 20 years ago."

Patrick says the programme is targeting people from every demographic – from children to pensioners, young carers, people in sheltered housing and supported living. He added men's mental health will be a big theme in future.

He said: "The things that work best here are those with relevance to St Helens' people, places or heritage – but with a new twist on it.

"We're staging performances in taxi cabs, holding poetry nights for people who don't like poetry, and running an arts cafe where customers can choose from the food menu as well as from an 'arts menu'.

"We're trying to explode the misconception that art is only something you hang on a white wall or something for a particular kind of people. It belongs to everyone, it's fun and set new boundaries."

Anyone who would like to find out what's going on around town can visit, or follow @theheartofglass on Twitter.