Saturday 10th September

AS I WALKED along, I witnessed the same scene over and again. I saw many students finding their bearings in a city that will be their home for the next few years. Some in groups, some on their own and some with their parents but all in awe of what was ahead of them.

The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool

The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool

It took me back to my university days and made me think about all those hours I spent at the Bluecoat, sat on the floor in the bookshop and trawling through the myriad of bookshelves. It was there that I was introduced to Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. It was there that my life would take on a whole new direction. It was that same place that I now refused to return to!

I’ve always felt that this city used the Bluecoat to help achieve the Capital of Culture and, once it did, it ripped the heart out of the place by hiking up the rental costs. The bookshop was forced to find a home on Hanover Street and Quiggins was sent to Renshaw Street. I said I’d never go back.

However, I realised that today was a day for appreciating what we had found and not dwelling on what we’d lost. These new students will find their own Bluecoat and they’ll find Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs too.

I was immediately welcomed by Steve Power, curator at the gallery on College Lane, whose first words were ‘Are you a Liverpool fan, mate? Not that it matters too much.’

The Reds Gallery at the Bluecoat

The Reds Gallery at the Bluecoat. ‘The Famous LFC Boot Room’ makes way for ‘We Never Walk Alone’ from September 15th.

Steve’s love of the job he was doing came bursting through as he offered to show me around. It’s a small, intimate gallery where the walls are filled with familiar and iconic images of Liverpool Football Club over the last thirty years, all provided by photographer Steve Hale. My initial thoughts were that I’d seen all the images before and the gallery was a cold, money-spinner set up by the club to tap into tourism. However, it was Steve who convinced me otherwise. He introduced many anecdotal stories about not just the famous figures in the foreground but also those people in the background. It is there that the ‘special trip down memory lane’ actually begins. I observed the first in a series of displays, which was entitled ‘The Famous LFC Boot Room’ and the next exhibition ‘We Never Walk Alone’ begins 15th September. This will move the focus from the personnel at the club to the fans and their personalities. I got the feeling this will lend itself greatly to the strengths of the curators as they hope to listen to and share the opinions and tales of all visitors.

I didn’t think I’d be saying his but I’m looking forward to returning. It may not be the Bluecoat as I once knew it but it’s still a place for people and certainly a place for new people in our city.

A big thank you to Steve and Linn for making me feel so welcome.

@stephen1martin

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