Black communities in St Helens to tell their stories as part of arts project

St Helens Library Service, through the award-winning Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries programme, is working with a local artist to develop a project which captures the voices of the borough’s black community.

Monday, 26th October 2020, 10:37 am
Updated Monday, 26th October 2020, 10:39 am
Community: Artist Alexis Maxwell is working on an project which will see black people in St Helens share their stories and lived experiences as part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund-backed ‘St Helens Oral History Project',

The project – announced during Black History Month - forms part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund-backed ‘St Helens Oral History Project’ which will see more than 100 oral and video history interviews conducted with a wide range and diverse mix of individuals to reflect and represent the different communities that call St Helens home.

These recordings will become a permanent part of the archive collections; preserved for future generations and will be added to the online St Helens Community Archive website so that people can easily access them.

Explaining the idea behind the project - which is expected to be completed and ready for release in 2021 - Alexis Maxwell, a creative artist and performer who recently graduated from University Centre St Helens with a first-class honours degree, said: “I'm really excited to have been commissioned to deliver this project as it is an opportunity for black people in St Helens to share their stories and lived experiences.

"Celebrating their achievements, identity, and shedding light on any obstacles they've faced along the way. It will be a platform for perspectives that aren't often heard, bringing oral history to life through a blend of spoken word, animation and typography."

Alexis, who was behind powerful film, Speak Up, put together in response to the death of George Floyd earlier this year, added: “With my background in performance art I will explore how to present these narratives through bold visuals and experimental sound, while staying true to the heart of the community - I aim to embrace the diversity of our borough, acknowledging how the lives and triumphs of black people shape the wider St Helens community and highlighting that they still exist long after Black History Month ends.”

Showing his support to the project, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries and Heritage, Councillor Anthony Burns, said: “Events that have unfolded during this past year make it important more than ever to recognise Black History Month.

“It is great to see examples across the borough of people supporting inclusivity from events such as this one to Saints and rugby league supporting the Black Lives Matter campaign. I am delighted to see awareness-raising projects like this materialise and look forward to seeing how the final piece develops.”

Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries is funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Council’s Library Service, which is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

Last year, the programme engaged with more than 4,000 people who may not get the opportunity to access the arts.

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