My own personal connections with the Bluecoat go right back over 45 years to 1971, when, as a six year old, I had one of my first ever pieces of art [an illustration of Blackpool Tower which I drew using four different coloured felt tip pens - black, blue, green and red] exhibited in one of the galleries as part of the weekly 'ALL YOUR OWN' children's art competition which the Liverpool Echo used to run every weekend back in the early 1970s....
I loved drawing at that young age, but I was cajoled by my sisters into submitting a piece of work at the time .... and so I simply acted on their recommendations. I never realised at the time that this hastily-drawn image of the tower - which I still remember to this day took me all of half an hour to complete - would then earn me a commendation certificate which the Liverpool Echo sent to me [subsequently framed on the wall for posterity] and, in addition, the drawing was one of many entries proudly exhibited at the Bluecoat Chambers!
Unfortunately, we never managed to visit Bluecoat Chambers back then just to see my own handiwork on display - which was rather strange to say the least - but I had kept hold of the framed certificate all this time [it's currently inside one of 100+ boxes of keepsakes and various other personal effects stacked away amongst my household items].
Thus started my lifelong association with the Bluecoat ever since..... from the early 1980s onwards, the place would always be a regular calling-in point for me on my many jaunts around the city. I would often always meet my friends there, be it in the tranquil sun-kissed gardens or the bookshop or the cafe..... I would occasionally see bands playing upstairs in the main hall [where the Bistro now lies]. Every now and then I would attend record and book fairs in the very same space.... but the main draw was always to simply drop by to see what was going on within its various rooms ..... and come away feeling either inspired or intrigued by some of its innovative and ground-breaking [and occasionally controversial] exhibitions.
For me, nothing says "I am back home" more perfectly and succinctly than simply catching sight of the humble, welcoming and reassuring facade of the Bluecoat building as viewed down Church Alley.... it really is one of the city's true gems and historical assets. Even with the radical changes brought about by the expansion and redevelopment [just after the Capital of Culture Year 2008] when it re-opened shortly afterwards, it has never lost its importance and relevance as a place where all the city's creative ley lines converge. So many illustrious people, young and old, alive and deceased, have passed through its hallowed portals.
The Bluecoat remains, for me, the original creative and cultural heart of Liverpool, and I for one am extremely proud and honoured to continue to have such a long association with it. It's amazing to realise that it is 300 years old right now. May there hopefully be another 300 years more to come!
Long Live The Bluecoat!