Bed-In at the Bluecoat: poet Chuck Perkins, with musical accompaniment, 2011

A Civic Role

A new documentary display at the Bluecoat looks at how the Liverpool arts venue has engaged with the city and participated in wider public debates.


11:00am - 5:00pm


Wed 08 December 2021 - Sun 13 March 2022

We want to hear from you as we explore the Bluecoat's civic role. Tell us what you think by clicking here, and your suggestions could be used in a future event.

In these challenging times, the function of the arts in society is becoming increasingly valued, as well as put under scrutiny. Publicly-funded arts organisations are being challenged to develop new ways to engage with their audiences, to become more relevant to local communities, and to grow their civic role.

As the first arts centre in the UK, constituted in 1927, the Bluecoat has long engaged with Liverpool’s cultural and civic life, providing a home for artists, cultural societies, creative retailers, festivals, and a place for public discourse and social interaction.

Mobile Academy, Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge at the Bluecoat, 2008. Photo Alex Wolkowicz
Euro96 at the Bluecoat: Dutch football fans in the courtyard with the work of Alan Dunn, Football Artist In Residence (FAIR), 1996

The new display, A Civic Role, reflects some of the ways in which the Bluecoat has strived to be more than simply a venue that presents art in its spaces. The material selected to tell this story is drawn from the arts centre’s archive – photos, film, posters, publications and other documents - and offers a glimpse at some of the key strands of the Bluecoat’s civic engagement.

This has taken place both within and beyond the building, interacting with local people in a variety of ways, such as artists’ interventions into the public realm, residencies by artists and academics, leading on debates, and a wide-ranging participation programme with communities.

This is the second of a series of archival displays in the Vide space, situated next to the Gallery, and it follows A Creative Community, which focussed on the Bluecoat as a centre for working artists. The third exhibition, starting in March 2022, looks at on Bluecoat’s colonial legacies.

Hear more from our Director of Cultural Legacies, Bryan Biggs:

Democratic Promenade exhibition flyer, 2011