Built in 1716-17 as a charity school, Bluecoat Chambers in School Lane is the oldest surviving building in central Liverpool, England.
Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, Bluecoat showcases talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature.
As the most historic building in Liverpool’s city centre, Bluecoat has four galleries. It houses a creative community of artists and businesses and runs a participation programme with local communities.
In March 2008, the revered arts centre re-opened after a £14 million re-development by Rotterdam architects Biq Architecten with a stronger mission than ever to engage, innovate and excel.
Bluecoat believes everyone can craft and be creative and it is our aim to provide a space where creativity can flourish and be shared.
Bluecoat provides a creative hub for people to meet, talk, work, perform, question, create, craft, display and enjoy themselves. And a relaxing garden situated at the rear provides the ideal location to enjoy a beer, wine or soft drink in the summer. Bluecoat also has Explore, a set of free family craft activities taking place over the weekend.
Dating from the early 18th century, the building’s architectural importance is illuminated by its UNESCO world heritage and Grade One listed status.
Bluecoat has a rich artistic history. Augustus John was associated with Bluecoat and early exhibitions included the first Post Impressionists show, which came to Liverpool in 1911 following an earlier showing in London organised by critic Roger Fry. It featured works by Picasso, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and Gauguin, exhibiting alongside British artists for the first time.
The building has an equally distinguished history in the performing arts, from visits by Stravinsky, Bartok and Britten, to leading jazz and rock players such as Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart and John Surman, to contemporary composers like Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars, and dancer Michael Clark, or live literature from Doris Lessing, the Last Poets and Benjamin Zephania.
Yoko Ono had her first paid performance at Bluecoat in 1967, around the time that she met John Lennon. We were delighted when Yoko returned to the new performance space in 2008 for a special performance to celebrate the reopening of the building.
Those popping up to our sprawling Upstairs bistro will see a huge vinyl depicting Yoko’s sixties performance.
Bluecoat is now home to over 30 creative industries including artists, graphic designers, small arts organisations, craftspeople and retailers. Many of these are situated in the areas of the building which are not open to the public. Our longest standing occupier is Bluecoat Display Centre which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009 and sells the best in UK crafts.
The recent redevelopment, completed in 2008, saw the south east wing rebuilt however into a purpose built arts wing complete with four galleries hosting contemporary art created by international, national and local artists with the exhibitions changing approximately every two to three months.