Performing arts have been central to Bluecoat since the early 20th century. Then, breakaway art school group, the Sandon Studios Society, and its supporters who established the building as an arts centre, staged concerts and plays, as well as cabarets and parties, at which there was live entertainment. The Sandon's music and drama groups were active for many years, and its dining room hosted visits from many illustrious composers, including Stravinsky, Holst, Bartok, and musicians, actors and choreographers like Kathleen Ferrier, George Balanchine, Margot Fonteyn and Laurence Olivier. The Concert Hall upstairs was the location for many memorable performances, and this collection gives a snapshot of some of them.
There is very little documentation of events until the 1980s, so the main focus here is on that and subsequent decades, when the programme became increasingly eclectic and adventurous, moving beyond the building to other sites and venues in the city. This reflected Bluecoat’s embrace of more experimental work, particularly in the field of live art and, along with its visual arts profile, its growing reputation as a multi-art form arts centre.
There are hundreds more performance images in our archive, which will become available on this website as we develop our collections. You can also search our season brochures, all of which, from the early 1980s to the present, are included here. These list the many performances that have taken place here, including classical, jazz, folk, experimental and global music, poetry and literature, theatre, live art and other performances.
Image: Elin Strand live art performance, Speaking Bernina, in the Concert Hall during the exhibition, Veil (2003).