Bluecoat is a unique and much-loved Liverpool institution, its oldest city centre building. This book tells the fascinating story of its transformation from charity school to contemporary arts centre, the UK’s first. Its early 18th century origins shed light on the religious and maritime mercantile environment of the growing port, whose merchants supported the school. Echoes from then are revealed in themes explored by artists in the 20th century, including slavery and colonial legacies.
The predominant focus is on an inclusive building for the arts, starting with colourful bohemian society, the Sandon, who established an artistic colony in 1907, hosting significant exhibitions by the Post-Impressionists and many leading modern British artists. Bluecoat Society of Arts emerged as the building’s custodians, paving the way for the arts centre which, despite financial struggles and wartime bomb damage, survived and continues to play a prominent role in Liverpool’s and the UK’s culture.
Bluecoat is described as where ‘village hall meets the avant-garde’. In its rich story, Picasso, Stravinsky, Yoko Ono, Captain Beefheart, Simon Rattle and the inspirational Fanny Calder are just some of the names encountered, as key strands, including music, visual art, performance and the building’s tenants, are traced.