The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home were a part of ‘Through the Looking Glass’ live art weekend in St Helens organized by the Live Art Development Agency and Heart of Glass. This took place over 20-22 November weekend.
The Institute talked with local people and learned that what was currently driving people mad was that the indoor benches people had been using for years to have a chat and a rest on, had been taken away. The Hardshaw Centre – renamed the Hardcore Centre for this project – removed all benches from the shopping centre thereby implementing a ‘speed-up’ of people coming through, buying goods and going out. The rationale for this removal, we found out, was that people were bringing their own food and drink to the shopping centre and spending too much time on the benches chatting not shopping. So, the Institute, with a group of others, decided to return to the Hardcore Centre with a specially prepared manifesto bench (sourced from St Helens via Gumtree for £25, painted and decorated the weekend before) and invite people to have a sit down and a cup of tea and a chat. The security guards threw us out as soon as they could, but not before we’d gathered a New Manifesto for St Helens from the bench users. We continued our bench performance in the Church Square dragging the bench around it and talking to young people who gathered there, shoppers and passers by. Thank you to all who participated in this small reclamation of people’s right to sit in the warm without spending money. Big thanks to LADA – who were brilliant and supportive throughout.
Check out ‘a manifesto for st helens’ which we proclaimed in the Church Square at 3pm for a small audience of live art festival attenders and passers by.