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Issue:- 16 September 2010

St Helens Heritage Trail
By Kezia Atherton-Davis

ASK people to sum up St Helens in two words and usually those words are Glass and Rugby, I know thatís three words if you want to be picky, but you know what I mean. Last Friday was the launch of the St Helens Heritage Trail, essentially a tour map to guide people to places of local interest, in an effort to get more people to visit the town and to discover some of its less obvious attractions. Iím a Young Leader with the Girl Guides and so this is an insiderís view of the results, but itís not going to be a PR job in case youíre wondering. The St Helens Girl Guiding Association along with local archivists and historians were behind the creation of the trail and I asked some of the people involved about the project.

The St Helens Guides were invited by St Helens Community Empowerment Network (CEN) a non-political network of local voluntary and community groups who liaise with the council on various issues, to produce the trail as part of their the Girl Guiding Associationís Centenary Celebrations. Although St Helens Guides involvement has been behind the scenes apart from providing guiding uniforms from the past 100 years, worn by a few of the girls who helped to show people around the trail along with a couple of the Girl Guide Leaders who were acting as tour guides for the initial launch weekend.

The buildings on the trail were originally chosen for their historical period value but then it was decided to also add buildings with an interesting individual history or story.

The National Lottery, along with St Helens Council, provided the funding; the council also provided access to records and expertise, as well as enabling the production of the finished guide.

It wasnít all plain sailing as there were difficulties trying to establish facts and all the information had to be independently verified by two sources before it was allowed into the guide.

On a personal level, having walked the trail, I felt that it is maybe slightly too long for comfort and also, after the launch weekend; anyone walking the trail will have to do so without the aid of a tour guide, having to rely on a trail map. The information in the actual guide is a bit sparse and there is a distinct lack of public conveniences marked on it, so if you donít know St Helens youíre going to be a bit stuck, especially if youíre doing the trail with kids.

Taken as a whole, the trail is a good idea, but could probably do with a bit of polishing to make it shine. Letís hope we can build on this for the futureÖ

FACT FILE:- "Did you know?"

One of the buildings on the trail is the Friendsí Meeting House, This attractive stone-built Grade II hall dates from 1679, is the oldest building in the town and has been used for Quaker worship for over 300 years since its establishment by George Shaw of Bickerstaffe. The building and garden have been recently restored & are an important element of the George Street Conservation Area. The sundial over the door is dated 1753, while a curiosity in the garden is a huge glacial boulder, said to have been deposited from the Lake District following the last ice age.

Another building on the trail is the Citadel Arts Centre, commonly referred to as The Citadel, and is a multi disciplinary arts centre situated in the town centre of St Helens, Merseyside, occupying a Victorian building on the corner of Waterloo Street and Milk Street. The centre offers an artistic programme consisting mainly of live music and community arts, as well as creative writing classes, art classes, dance and drama groups and music classes.

The building was originally constructed in 1861 as a music hall/theatre simply named the 'Theatre Royal'. It replaced an unspecified earlier building on the site. The theatre originally had two balconies and a large stage with a small fly tower. It had capacity for over 1300 people. The remains of the second balcony can still be seen today. The theatre was popular with touring companies and, despite numerous different owners, it grew in popularity until the venue was deemed to be unfit for purpose.

In 1887 the manager, a Mr Wallace Revill, purchased a plot of land on Corporation Street in St Helens, and a new theatre was constructed. Revill vacated the Milk St building and took the name 'Theatre Royal' with him. The new Theatre Royal still stands.

The Salvation Army purchased the building in 1889 and began an extensive programme of refurbishments which removed the stage and fly tower, the upper balcony and also the boxes. This was furthered in 1904 when the building was altered even more. It was reopened by Col Pilkington, of the famous Glass manufacturers in June 1905. The building was used by the Salvation Army as their Citadel (from whence its new name came) up until the early 1980s. It was then put up for sale.

Today The Citadel is the only Arts Centre in St Helens. From 1988 up until 1999 the venue primarily was a rock, blues and jazz venue. It also played host to a Spice Girls Concert!  Since a major refurbishment and restructuring in the year 2000, the organisation has changed considerably. As well as the music programme, The Citadel now offers an extensive range of inclusive creative arts. In 2002 the venue was voted as one of the top 10 jazz and blues venues in the UK by the newspaper, The Independent.

2008 saw the launch of the St Helens Choir, in co-ordination with St Helens Council and the Sing Out 08 promotion (part of the Liverpool capital of culture operation).

In 2009 The Citadel celebrated its 21st birthday with a special event with invited guests and members of the public. Also in 2009 The Citadel was awarded Big Lottery Young Peoples Fund 2 as part of the National Lottery's ongoing Arts Council investment scheme to run its Music Mecca project.

2010 saw the launch of Music Mecca, a 3 year project designed to offer free music workshops to young people across the St Helens area. Music Mecca was one of the featured promotions for the St Helens Festival.

ESQUIRES OPENS IN SOUTHPORT

SOUTHPORT is now flooded with coffee shops and tea shops, so it was quite a shock to hear that yet another had opened in the Town Centre. Coffee consumption in Southport offers a brisk market place, with coffee and tea shops maintaining strong hold of many properties within the Town Centre. It is hard to see how yet more would help Southport, but we think this one will. Many of the big chains cluster bomb areas especially in smaller areas such as suburbs or small towns, driving out local traders, so what makes this one different? With the likes of Nero, who have opened up not one, but two shops in just a few seconds walking distance of each other, how can they do get into the market place? The new shop, Esquires Coffee House, opened its doors to the public on 13 September 2010 after holding a privet launch on the previous Sunday. The coffee house is located near the Southport War Memorial on Lord Street and offers a new approach to the traditional high street coffee shop. Inside Southport Franchise, Linda and the groupís national training manager, Paul Sharp, showed us just what separates them from the likes of Nero and Starbucks, as well as the countless local small business shops that are in and around Southport. Inside they not only have relaxing chairs and a well lit shop, but also a TV with the news on, Free Wi-Fi and, we have been told, that they will soon have evenings with live music! This is a welcome addition and should be a good supplement to the townís food and drink market and a far cry from the likes of many of the large coffee shops. The shop is well laid out and appears to be very accessible for wheel chair users, but we have not tested that one yet. The shop offers quite a few quirky items as well, like chocolate penguins, appealing to the younger market. The coffee is well made and is smooth to drink, thanks to a very good coffee roast, all adding to a very enjoyable experience. We will be watching this space to see what happens. Good luck to all the staff and to Linda!

Donation to dermatology clinic in memory of husband

MRS June Bibby of Ormskirk, a retired medical secretary, has presented a state-of-the art camera to the Dermatology clinic at Ormskirk in memory of her late husband Jack.  "Jack had to come to the clinic for treatment for 10 years and every one was wonderful to us both. He actually looked forward to coming as the staff had become more like friends. I just wanted to show my appreciation for all the care he received over those 10 years." said Mrs Bibby.  Jack Bibby, a retired watchmaker, died aged 81 in March 2009. Dr Aamir Memon, Consultant Dermatologist gave his thanks to Mrs Bibby:- "We are very grateful to Mrs Bibby for the very generous donation. This new camera will be extremely useful to us. It is a Polaroid, which enables us to instantly print small pictures onto self-adhesive paper that we can put into the patient's notes. It will enable us to keep a record of someone's condition so we can see clearly how the treatment is working."

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