Blue Coat School opens its doors – but only virtually

Blue Coat School in Liverpool dates back to 1708 and moved to its current Wavertree site in 1906. It’s annual series of open days are moving online this year due to COVID-19. Tony McDonough reports

Blue Coat School
From left, Blue Coat organists Daniel Greenway, Simon Cheung, George Ke and Olivia Stone


Liverpool’s historic Blue Coat school begins annual series of Heritage Open Days next week – but COVID-19 means the events will be online-only for the first time.

Blue Coat School is a co-educational, non-fee paying selective state grammar school in Wavertree, Liverpool, founded in 1708 as the Liverpool Blue Coat Hospital. Originally based at what is now the Bluecoat Chambers arts facility in the city centre, the school relocated to Wavertree in 1906.

Each year, the school opens its doors to the public in a 10-day series. However, due to the risk from COVID-19 this years series will take place online only from Friday, September 11 to Sunday, September 20.

In a series of “short but stimulating” films, there will be virtual tours of the Edwardian landmark building, demonstrations of the school’s renowned music-making and discussions about what goes on behind the scenes.

With music such an important part of the school, the newly restored rare and historic Father Willis organ, centrepiece of Shirley Hall (the assembly hall), will be highlighted with performances by two new Blue Coat organ scholars, George Ke and Olivia Stone.

Also Daniel Greenway and Simon Cheung, Old Blues from the Class of 2020, will play some of their favourite pieces to show the versatility of the instrument, now restored to its original Victorian voice.

They will also explain some of the secrets of the organ, explain how it works and will even be taking requests from those viewing through our social media channels. The Father Willis organ restoration was undertaken by its original builder Henry Willis & Sons, of Liverpool, one of Britain’s greatest organ companies.

As a tribute to its work, Daniel Greenway will be filmed playing on six Willis organs in Liverpool, including not only Blue Coat School’s instrument, but also that at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and St George’s Hall. There will be a map of all the existing Willis organs on Merseyside.

Old Blue Harry Spain, from the class of 2016, will present an architectural history of the school and former physics teacher and Old Blue Keith Caulkin will discuss why the school gets involved in Heritage Open Days, as well as his experiences as a teacher during his life-long career at Blue Coat.

Peter Elson, Blue Coat For All project manager, who is the lead for the heritage open days, said: “All these films will demonstrate the importance of preserving heritage and the part it plays in the future culture of the school and city.

“In addition to the films there will also be teasers with unusual or oddly-angled photos providing clues to the following day’s virtual tour, along with other online activities. Each day will feature aspects of our oral history project, with its treasure trove of recorded reminiscences and anecdotes. Twice-daily tweets will keep you updated with what’s being posted.”

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