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Weekly Blog 14: Elaine Mitchener SWEET TOOTH


This week’s featured artist is Elaine Mitchener whose acclaimed SWEET TOOTH performance was premiered at Bluecoat in 2017, our 300th anniversary year. A film of this work is available here and we are delighted that Elaine has also made for us a selection of music - recorded and filmed - that has inspired her.

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga gave a powerful talk at Bluecoat in 2018 about Liverpool’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. Providing a context for SWEET TOOTH, a recording of this talk is included here

This week's family activity has been designed by artist Sam Belinfante, who takes inspiration from Mitchener's techniques of musical improvisation.

Elaine Mitchener: SWEET TOOTH


In 2017, vocalist and movement artist Elaine Mitchener premiered SWEET TOOTH here, a performance that interrogated historical links between sugar and slavery and their contemporary echoes. This ambitious music theatre piece used text, improvisation and movement to stage a dramatic engagement with the brutal realities of slavery, revealed by historical records of the sugar industry.

Touring to other venues, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, the 50-minute performance can be seen here.

There is background to SWEET TOOTH here and you can find out more about Elaine’s work on her website.

SWEET TOOTH was a Bluecoat partnership with the Stuart Hall Foundation and International Slavery Museum, and funded by Arts Council England and PRS Foundation.

Elaine Mitchener: Music and Film Inspiration

We invited Elaine to select music that has inspired her practice. She has also chosen three films: an extract from Black Journal  1970), focusing on the life of Alice Coltrane and her children in the wake of the death of her husband John Coltrane; Rising Tones Cross (1985) documenting the New York avant-garde jazz scene; and Lizzie Borden’s documentary-style feminist fiction film, Born in Flames (1983).

Click here to listen to a playlist of Elaine's music selection, and read more about her selection in our blog.


David Olusoga
















In this talk given at Bluecoat in 2018, British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and film-maker David Olusoga draws on his academic research into Liverpool and the transatlantic slave trade to interrogate the ongoing legacies of the ‘triangular trade’. Profits from this, and from the goods that it enabled – cotton, sugar and tobacco - were among the funds donated by merchants to the Blue Coat charity school in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Addressing a collective amnesia about the slave trade, Olusoga asks, ‘at what point does an omission start to feel like a lie?’ Listen to the talk here


Digging the Bluecoat Archive with Bido Lito

Liverpool publication Bido Lito has invited our Artistic Director Bryan Biggs to select five items from Bluecoat's archive on the theme of seafaring. Bryan's selection appears this week online and you can read it here. It includes artists whose work has maritime connections, from Keith Piper's Trade Winds installation for Trophies of Empire, to Wirral-born writer Malcolm Lowry's fascination with the sea.

Family Activity - The Voice is the Original Instrument

In this week's family activity, artist Sam Belinfante has put together a series of activities exploring the voice, inspired by Elaine Mitchener.

You don't need any training or experience, and all the activities are easy to do at home. Give them a go, and see what you can create using just your voice!


Belinfante was the curator of the exhibition, Listening, which toured to Bluecoat in 2014. You can find out more about the exhibition here and more about Belinfante's work as an artist, curator and writer here.

Click here to download the activity pack.

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