Bluecoat centre for contemporary arts is the most historic building in Liverpool’s city centre, celebrating its 300th birthday in 2017. In 1708, the rector of Liverpool Reverend Robert, and Bryan Blundell, master mariner, founded the Liverpool Blue Coat School; an institution "dedicated to the promotion of Christian charity and the training of poor boys in the principles of the Anglican Church." A Latin inscription of this text above the main entrance is a reminder today of the building's original function. However, in 1927 the building was purchased, and subsequently transformed into the UKs first dedicated arts centre. A year after the school relocated, a group of painters and sculptors - seeking a new home following the demolition of their studio space at Sandon Terrace, opposite the Anglican Cathedral - moved to Bluecoat. Artistic activity has been at the heart of the building ever since, and it was the efforts of the Sandon Studios Society, inspirationally led by Mrs Fanny Dove Hamel Calder, that secured the Bluecoat's future as a centre for the arts. It was not until 1968 that The Bluecoat Gallery was formally established as a place to exhibit work by contemporary artists.
After a significant re-development in 2008, Bluecoat now houses four galleries, a creative community of artists and businesses and runs a participation programme with local communities. Since the refurbishment, this programme has included Blue Room, an inclusive arts project for adults with learning disabilities (video to the left). This has since expanded to include Out of the Blue, a project whereby Blue Room artists support after school clubs for local children across the city. Key staff on this study include Bec Fearon Head of Engagement, who been instrumental in the development of Blue Room and Out of the Blue, and has supervised this PhD study.
Becky Waite, Blue Room’s Lead Facilitator, along with Kat Shock the Participation Coordinator and Laura Yates the Participation Manager. In addition to the participation staff, Head of Programme Marie-Anne McQuay has supported this study along with Adam Smythe, Bluecoat’s in-house curator.