By Radka Hostašová
Liverpool city centre is a bustling hub of shoppers, food and drink enthusiasts, culture seekers and tourists, mixing together to create a vibrant atmosphere. Just a stones throw away from two of the biggest shopping destinations in the city; Church Street and Liverpool ONE, you’ll find the calm oasis of the contemporary arts centre, the Bluecoat. By leaving the noise of the city behind and entering the iconic front yard of the Bluecoat, it can feel like taking a step back in time.
In fact, the Bluecoat, located on the School Lane, is listed as the oldest building in Liverpool city centre. Built in the early 18th century, the Bluecoat first served the purpose of a charity school for poor children. However, after moving the school to Wavertree, the Bluecoat was on the verge of demolition several times. Fortunately, thanks to a successful funding campaign, the building, with such distinctive architecture, has survived and since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been a home for the arts.
These days, the Bluecoat is defined as a contemporary arts centre that offers a space for artists to create and exhibit and for audiences to experience their work. Through its extensive programme and a focus on the community, the Bluecoat aims to make art an inclusive and accessible medium. Moreover, the Bluecoat invests in the dynamic development of the arts while constantly reflecting on its past heritage and creatively responding to it. The programme at the Bluecoat consists of regular exhibitions, family workshops, dance performances, and literature readings.
The Bluecoat is currently accommodating nearly 30 artists residencies, who use the centre’s on-site studios to create illustrations, digital installations, pieces of fashion, or physical performances.
Besides supporting outstanding contemporary artists, the venue also functions as a base for several local businesses. There’s Roots Houseplants, an independent plant shop for anyone looking to add some greenery to their home, Kernaghan Books, the iconic Probe Records and Florianni bridal and evening dress boutique and more.
Also housed within the Bluecoat’s building is the Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool’s independent contemporary craft gallery. The Display Centre exhibits and sells some of the finest work made by professional craftspeople from the North West, across the British Isles and beyond and is recognised nationally and internationally as one of the UK’s leading galleries specialising in contemporary applied arts.
As a part of the programme to broaden the creative community, the Bluecoat also organises a number of projects targeting different groups of audiences. For instance, whereas Out of the Bluecoat is a creative club for children running across schools in Liverpool, Blue Room is a project that involves adults with learning disabilities, who get to experience art in the gallery as well as create their own artwork. And finally, alongside on-site and off-site projects, the Bluecoat regularly participates in the UK’s leading festival of contemporary art – Liverpool Biennial.
While the front side of the building mesmerises its visitors with a unique architectural design, the back yard surprises them with a beautiful secret garden. The Bluecoat’s garden is attached to the venue’s café, so customers can enjoy their food and drink surrounded by greenery in the peaceful tranquility. You could easily forget that you’re still in the heart of the city centre. But rather than a flawless lawn and perfectly trimmed hedges, the Bluecoat’s garden is a tangle of bushes and flowers providing privacy to the benches standing around them. In other words, the garden simply serves as a little getaway from the rush of the busy city centre streets.
A visit to the Bluecoat Liverpool promises a unique and inspiring experience. The doors of the venue are open to the public every day, however, particular events require booking tickets in advance. Visit https://www.thebluecoat.org.uk/ to find out more.