THE borough's cultural scene has been given a massive boost as St Helens Libraries and the Heart of Glass were added to the Arts Council England's national portfolio.

Both organisations will receive National Portfolio Organisation regular funding from the Arts Council from 2018-2022.

The Heart of Glass will benefit from £1.4m of funding over the four-year period.

Meanwhile, the St Helens Council Library Service will receive £440,000. 

Heart of Glass launched in 2014, founded after an initial £1.5m investment from Arts Council England. 

The announcement see the project establish itself as a national collaborative arts commissioning agency.

Heart of Glass was established as an independent entity in 2016.

The new funding will see the project expand its role as a nationally significant organisation brokering the relationship between contemporary arts and modern society, and as a champion for collaborative practice and a powerful source for new ideas.

Meanwhile, the library service's Cultural Hubs programme was named the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded arts programme in 2016 and the investment will enable it to develop its work further.

The news will come as a boost to the service. In March St Helens Council launched a six-week review into the library service in the face of budget cuts.

This year is the first library services were able to apply for national portfolio recognition from ACE.

The service's Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries programme was launched in since 2013, winning the Best Art Project category last year.

The Library Service will now need to submit a business plan to Arts Council England by December 2017, and will form a board- type group to oversee the Cultural Hubs project to decide how the money - £110,000 per year- will be allocated over the next four years to develop the project further.

Joanna Rowlands, chair of the Heart of Glass, said: “We're delighted to hear that Heart of Glass has received NPO funding from the Arts Council.

"It will enable us to become the national agency for collaborative and social arts practice.

"Proud to be rooted in St Helens, we'll create ambitious cultural projects where the community are at the heart of the idea and the process.”

Heart of Glass director Patrick Fox added: "Our ongoing mission is to support artists and communities of place and interest, to collaborate and realise ambitious contemporary artwork that reflects and responds to the politics of our times.

"We work across context and across art form and through our projects and initiatives we wish to create a space for dialogue, research and experimentation, placing art in direction interaction all areas of life that form society - this work is vital, more so now than ever.

"People both individually and within communities of place or interest are central to both our thinking and our practice and this funding opportunity and support will allow us to go deeper and wider - we look forward to collaborating.”

Over the coming years the organisation will continue to produce specialised projects and resources for those who make, watch, research, study, teach, produce, present, write about and archive collaborative and social arts practice.

Cllr Gill Neal, portfolio holder for arts and culture, said: “The council has a stated ambition to be a national centre of excellence for socially engaged arts and cultural practice - so for our library service - and also the fantastic Heart of Glass project - to have NPO status in St Helens is a massive step in the right direction to helping us achieve this

“We will have to make hard budget decisions in the years ahead but we are clear a new model for arts and culture can add value to both the way we do health and social care and also our approach to regeneration. The work of our Library Service and the Heart of Glass is critical to that.”

Eamonn McManus, chair of the St Helens Economy Board, added: "This Arts Council announcement is an endorser of that ambition and further reinforces St Helens' growing reputation for arts and culture activity.

"As an Economy Board and Ambassadors for St Helens we know how important are and culture will be and it is great to such an investment being made in the borough."