Bluecoat Display Centre, Bluecoat Chambers, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX – Visit Now
This contemporary craft shop has been doing its thing for over 50 years – despite funding cuts, recession and change.
Liverpool might not quite have Manchester’s retail reputation, but when it comes to the independents it’s more than a match – as the Bluecoat Display Centre rather quietly proves. This little shop, tucked safely within the walls of the city centre’s oldest building, has been doing its contemporary craft thing since 1959. It’s the place to head for one-off and handmade glassware, jewellery, sculpture or prints by both emerging and established artists at prices that, while not cheap, are sensible enough to make their ownership a distinct possibility.
The shop staff not only know their products, they know their makers
The gallery is located just beyond the Bluecoat’s courtyard garden, yet while its light interior exudes an almost zen-like calm, it has faced its fair share of ups and downs. In the mid-2000s, it was forced to move out while the whole of the Bluecoat underwent a £12.5m redevelopment. It moved back in in 2008, but just a few years later lost its Arts Council funding – which was critical for a place that is actually much more than just a shop. Alongside the selling shelves and stands, the Bluecoat Display Centre stages regular exhibitions of some of Britain’s finest craft makers, runs workshops and artist talks, supports emerging artists and is a charity that has done much, over the decades, to support contemporary craft in Liverpool and across the north.
It’s this that makes buying here such a pleasurable experience: the shop staff not only know their products, they know their makers. This writer is wearing a ring bought in Liverpool, but which was among the final batch made by an octogenarian jeweller based down south – and it’s that sort of knowledge that is the polar opposite of the fast, throwaway experience that beats and throbs in the form of Liverpool ONE, just on the other side the Bluecoat’s walls. It’s perhaps this that has enabled the Bluecoat Display Centre to weather its various building and funding storms, but whatever its history, standing in this quiet, modest shop today is one of the joys of independent Liverpool. It also makes it worthy of that well-worn epithet, “hidden gem”.
Services and FacilitiesExhibition space, food, drink, workshops, events
AccessibilityFull access to the new wing, with some limited access elsewhere
Commercial and hire servicesFor Hire