THE head of the Arts Council England has hailed St Helens "an example of where lives have been changed by investment in arts and culture".

Darren Henley was speaking to more than 100 business owners and industry leaders who gathered at Saints stadium this week to hear how the creative sector can benefit the borough's future.

Guests were invited to listen to the speakers, who via various platforms, aim to encourage more people into the arts.

The event included speeches from Mr Henley, Invest in St Helens chairman, Eamonn McManus; assistant director at St Helens Council, Sarah Bullock; director of The Heart Of Glass, Patrick Fox; artist Heather Morrison, Evonne Bixter, from the Local Culture Education Partnership and Dermot Coleman from St Helens Economy Board.

They discussed the importance of Growing a Creative Industry in the borough.

Mr Henley hailed the Heart of Glass community project, which has worked with hundreds of youngsters and community groups since it was established four years ago.

He said: "I often use St Helens as an example of a place where lives have been changed by sustained strategic investment in arts and culture.

"The Heart of Glass here in St Helens is world leading and we’re really proud of it, you are blazing a trail for people around the country.

"Arts and culture doesn’t just exist inside the M25, I passionately believe that.”

He was followed by Sarah Bullock, assistant director of St Helens Council, who showcased an array of art that has already swept across the borough as part of St Helens 150th anniversary celebrations, including Sankey canal artwork Where Things are Different, Lost Castles and the Food and Drink festival.

She added: “Sometimes we have to be brave and push against boundaries to achieve great things.”

Evonne Bixter, from the Local Culture Education Partnership, who has been working closely with schools across the borough to encourage more young people to engage with the arts and potentially move into creative industries, added: "What we are doing here in St Helens is leading the way.

"We've got up to 30 schools signed up and by the end of March 2019 we will have worked with over 4,000 children and young people in St Helens and on top of that is all the staff in St Helens as well as families who have engaged in our workshops.

"As well as our work in schools, we are working with the whole St Helens community which is important to us by developing more well rounded, ambitious and socially aware individuals we are adding to the town's vision of being more culturally centred.

"With this in mind we have creative industries careers events for future workforces to open their eyes to the exciting possibilities in the creative sector and raise the aspirations of these children and young people to help them reach their potential regardless of their social and economic background.

"It's important to talk to students about the benefits of studying a creative subject and if we want to be scientists, work in technology or engineering, then we need a creative industry to look beyond and find something much more exciting and new.

"Let’s pledge that every child engages with art to help them achieve their potential."