Head-turning sculpture reshapes the horizon of the Northwest

  • 21 April 2009

The final piece of Dream, a landmark new sculpture, is lowered into place today (Tuesday 21 April) on the site of a former coal mine in St.Helens, next to a busy motorway where it will be seen by millions of motorists each year.

The spectacular 20 metre-high sculpture, by internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa, is situated on the site of the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens, midway between Liverpool and Manchester. A celebratory, forward-looking symbol of both St.Helens' rich mining heritage and its more recent post-industrial transformation, Dream will be highly visible to the 100,000 people who drive past the site on the M62 every day.

Dream was commissioned by local ex-miners and St.Helens Council as part of Channel 4’s Big Art Project, an ambitious public art commissioning initiative supported by Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts, and The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity.

The Big Art Project seeks to inspire and create new works of public art, commissioned by communities, as well as debating the importance of art in the built environment. The journey leading up to today’s unveiling of Dream, along with seven other Big Art Project sites across the UK, has been filmed for Big Art, a major four-part Channel 4 series, which starts on Sunday 10 May at 7.00pm.

Dream is the artist’s response to the brief and to subsequent conversations with the ex-miners group and members of the wider local community, who, far from wanting a mining monument, sought instead a forward-looking piece that would provide a beautiful, inspiring, contemplative space for generations to come. The work is intended to become a gateway feature for both Merseyside and Greater Manchester at the heart of the Northwest and to symbolise the remarkable regeneration of the whole region.

Weighing more than 370 tonnes, and individually fabricated in 90 unique panels of pre-cast concrete, Dream takes the form of a girl’s head with her eyes closed, seemingly in a dream-like state, and has taken seven months to construct.

Dream is being delivered by St.Helens Council in partnership with the national funders. It is also supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), the European Regional Development Fund via the Merseyside Objective 1 Programme, Forestry Commission, the St.Helens Local Enterprise Growth Initiative, and the Northwest Coalfield Communities Regeneration Programme,. No council tax-payers money has been utilised to pay for the project. A focus group comprising ex-miners from Sutton Manor has played a pivotal role in the whole development of the project, which is being curated by Liverpool Biennial.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: "The Big Art Project has given the people of St.Helens an unprecedented opportunity to commission a major work of art for their community. The Art Fund believes in the power of art to change people's lives and is proud to have helped make their dream a reality."

Artist Jaume Plensa said: "I am very happy with Dream because I have created a special place for people to be. The site at Sutton Manor is a high point with amazing views all around and I would like people to use the steps around the sculpture as a place to sit and enjoy looking at the landscape. I hope that it will be a very relaxing and inspiring place and that people say to one another ‘Let’s meet at Dream’. That is when I will know it is a success."

Gary Conley, who is part of the group of former miners from Sutton Manor said: "I never envisaged that on top of this former colliery spoil heap we would have something of such beauty. In the years I worked at Sutton Manor Colliery seeing the hustle and bustle, along with the dirt, smoke, steam and coal produced on that very spot, I would never have guessed that years later it would become somewhere peaceful and serene, where families would want to visit for a day out to admire Dream and its panoramic surroundings. I often have to pinch myself to realise I’m not in a dream! I feel proud and honoured to have been part of this project."

Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor for Arts and Performance at Channel 4, said: "I am delighted for St.Helens and also that, through the Big Art series, we have managed to attract a world-class artist to this historic site. It’s great to experience the public’s passion for art and to have been a part of bringing this beautiful new sculpture to the landscape of the Northwest."

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: "The enthusiasm and vision of the miners and people of St.Helens for the Big Art Project shows exactly how art can create a sense of belonging and pride in the places where we live. Working with the artist, they have achieved something truly inspirational. The unique way in which local people have been involved in the process has been challenging at times, but ultimately rewarding for everyone involved. I hope it will inspire other communities to create more public art that really says something."

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), said: "Creating a nationally recognised landmark on this formerly underused site will make a massive contribution to transforming the image of St.Helens and Merseyside in the minds of residents, potential visitors and investors. As well as providing a landmark piece of public art, this project will see the regeneration of over six hectares of land surrounding the sculpture. Dream will be a catalyst for the recreation and leisure development of the area, drawing visitors to the site and to the surrounding area and complementing the Mersey Forest development and St.Helens Forest Park."


For further information please contact:

St.Helens: Catharine Braithwaite, Lethal Communications cat@we-r-lethal.com or 07947 644 110

Arts Council England: Mark Ogle, OH Communications, mark@ohcommunications.co.uk or 07789 981 561

The Art Fund: Madeleine Burbidge mburbidge@artfund.org or 0207 225 4820 / 07912 777761

Channel 4: Justine Bower jbower@channel4.co.uk or 07801 678 382

For photography please contact:

Nathalie Mohoboob nmohoboob@channel4.co.uk or 020 7306 8761


The artwork is scheduled for completion next month and will be publicly launched on Sunday 31 May.

For more information about Dream and the Big Art Project in St.Helens go to www.dreamsthelens.com or www.channel4.com/bigart

The Art Fund

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections, campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors, and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.

For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org

Jaume Plensa

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is at the forefront of the contemporary art scene and has won awards and completed commissions across the globe. His most well known work is The Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park. His public artworks in the UK include a laser light sculpture in Gateshead and Breathing, the spectacular illuminated glass dome of BBC Broadcasting House.

Big Art – Starts Sunday 10 May at 7pm on Channel 4

Big Art is a major new four-part arts series offering a candid account of the successes and setbacks on the journey towards achieving new public works of art, as well as exploring the broader debate surrounding the changing role of art in society.

The culmination of four years’ filming, Channel 4’s Big Art Project began in 2005 when people across the country were invited to nominate places they felt could inspire an artist. Close to 1,400 nominations were received, from which seven sites were selected: Beckton, Belfast, Burnley, Cardigan, the Isle of Mull, Sheffield and St. Helens.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people's lives. As the national development agency for the arts, we support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.


St.Helens has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years to become a growing regional location of choice for businesses, residents and visitors alike. The Borough's spirit of innovation and competitive advantages in terms of connectivity, catchment and cost at the heart of the Northwest's motorway network, midway between Liverpool & Manchester, continue to be major factors in its ongoing success. For more information, visit www.theheartofthenorthwest.com.

A 2008 national survey names St.Helens as the "happiest" place to live on Merseyside, 2nd happiest in the Northwest and 14th in Britain. The Borough was rated in 2007 by Barclays Bank as one of the UK's top-performing places in terms of business start-up growth rates, and voted by Virgin Money as the Northwest's most car-friendly location. St.Helens is also over 55% rural, and is cited by the Northwest Development Agency as an exemplar for its approach to tourism development.

With its 4-Star, maximum Audit Commission rating, St.Helens Council is officially one of top Local Authorities in the country and has just been awarded dual Beacon Council status for "delivering economic prosperity through partnership" and "building homes for the future". Its dynamic Economic Development Team is responsible for managing and delivering key elements of the ambitious "City Growth Strategy" for "St.Helens plc" and works very closely with various public and private sector partners to this end.


The Big Art Project and the Big Art TV series was conceived by independent production company Carbon Media as a collaborative partnership between local communities, Channel 4 and funding partners. Big Art is an innovative experiment in combined TV broadcast and cultural commissioning. Carbon is the award-winning company behind a succession of TV programmes for a range of broadcasters, including the ground breaking Jump Britain which introduced the sport of free running to the UK. The Big Art TV series is a Carbon & Princess co-production.