Liverpool's centre for the contemporary arts

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Bluecoat and Castlefield Gallery announce inaugural PIVOT artists for new development programme.

published by The Bluecoat

We are delighted to announce the five inaugural PIVOT artists for our new artist development programme with Castlefield Gallery.  Pat ...


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Hidden Bluecoat - Heritage Open Days Online Programme

With restrictions on what we can offer in our building, for Heritage Open Days this year we're presenting an online programme. Taking the Hidden Nature theme, we reveal some lesser known, little seen and overlooked aspects of Bluecoat - Hidden Bluecoat.

The material, drawn from our archive as well as some that is newly created, includes hidden aspects of our building’s 300-year history. There are family activities, films, archive collections and more.

Virtual building tour

In this brand new series, our Artistic Director Bryan Biggs leads a virtual behind the scenes tour of the building, revealing its nooks and crannies. These include Liverpool’s oldest graffiti, several Liver birds, a ‘secret garden’, basements, an elegant eighteenth-century wooden staircase and other architectural features.

Episode 1 

in our first episode Bryan takes a look at the origins of Bluecoat's building.

Episode 2 

In this episode Bryan explores the unique features of Bluecoat's design, featuring a behind the scenes look at our one handed clock. 

Episode 3 

In this episode Bryan explores the heart of the building where our reception area and cafe are housed, and stops by our beautiful hidden garden.

Episode 4 

Episode 5 

We'll release each episode on our social media, so stay tuned! Click here to sign up to our newsletter to see the complete series. 

There is more about Bluecoat’s transition from charity school to contemporary arts centre, the UK’s first, here and a short film about the building, Tick Tock Old Clock, made by our after school project, Out of The Blue.

Blue Coat Charity School

Image: Recollections of the Blue-Coat Hospital Liverpool, St George’s Day, 1843 (print, 1850) 

Originally the charity school of St Peter’s Anglican church and founded in the early eighteenth century, the school moved to the suburbs nearly 200 years later. It is participating in Heritage Open Days with its own online programme, including a film about the restoration of its Willis organ that once occupied the chapel at Bluecoat.

Our archive website, has lots of fascinating information about the school and its origins. It was co-founded by Liverpool mariner Bryan Blundell and supported by other merchants whose wealth also derived from maritime trade including transatlantic slavery. Find out about this story and some of the artists we have worked with who have interrogated it, and other colonial legacies, by visiting the collections below.  

Bluecoat School

Bluecoat and Slavery

Listen to a talk about Bluecoat's history and its connection with the transatlantic slave trade by David Olusoga.

















Image: Andrew Robarts installation in front courtyard, 1988

Bluecoat Garden

Image: Bluecoat garden, 1983, with gardener Brenda Evans, centre

Bluecoat’s attractive garden has been an orchard and school playground, housed air raid shelters, and hosted concerts and exhibitions. Discover more about our secret garden in the links below. 

Explore a collection of images showing the garden and how artists have engaged with it

Watch Andrew Small’s film featuring interviews with users of the garden in 2004, before it was re-landscaped

• Listen to The Bell Tree, by artist Serena Korda, an installation at Speke Hall with a sister installation in our garden. 

Enjoy a playlist of songs about gardens, planting and green spaces. Read more about the playlist here and here.

Watch a short film about Bluecoat’s voluntary gardeners Cy & Jeannie Powell. 

Bluecoat's architecture

Image: Bluecoat from Church Alley, circa 1980s

Bluecoat  is the oldest building in Liverpool city centre and the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has undergone many changes over 300 years but it remains a fine example of the Queen Anne style of architecture. A selection of our archive images of the building has been brought together in a collection, Not just a pretty façade on our archive website. 

Image: Ed Farrell, Imagining Bluecoat 1769

Artist Ed Farrell has been creating meticulously detailed ‘aerial landscapes’ of historic Liverpool for several years, including one that features Bluecoat in the eighteenth century. This is based on a contemporary map and descriptions, to build up as accurately as possible a picture of how the building and the town looked at this time. We recorded a conversation with Ed talking about this image and how he approaches creating these fascinating artworks. This film, Imagining Bluecoat 1769, can be seen here and there is a related blog here.

Heritage Family Activities

We have a brand new activity for the whole family, in Green Spaces of Liverpool; Past, Present & Future.

Discover the green spaces that surrounded Bluecoat in the 18th and 19th centuries, and visit what remains of them today. This fascinating map of Liverpool city centre has been created by artist Andrea Ku using her own research and the artworks of Ed Farrell.

Pick up a map from Bluecoat from Thu-Sat, or download the map and info sheet here - containing lots of interesting information.

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About the Bluecoat

Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

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