They've even put a swimming pool in

The Bluecoat is getting the bone china out to salute its 300th anniversaryy, with an official birthday tea party in the back garden next weekend (Sunday, September 10). 

It's been organised as part of the annual Heritage Open Days (September, 7-10) which will see Liverpool"s oldest Grade I listed building opening up for tours, a talk by TV art historian Dan Cruickshank, open studios and the like. 

Who knew, for instance, that an early 20th century commune of artists, the Sandon Group, built a functioning swimming pool in that very same garden?  These days you'd call it an installation and, thus, for September 2017, we have a show called POOL - by artist Mary Prestidge - which dips, as it were, into that moment and recreates it.

"Party-goers of all ages are invited to enjoy afternoon tea in the beautiful Bluecoat garden," it says of the Sunday event that will see the homeless Choir with No Name singing Happy Birthday, live music, a barbecue, and a cutting of the birthday cake at 2pm.

There will also be free family activities inspired by the fascinating history of the building, along with arts and craft demonstrations from the independent retailers based there.

The Bluecoat is Liverpool"s oldest Grade I listed building, Queen Anne in architecture style and began life as a charity school in 1717, before formally becoming an arts centre in 1927, making it the oldest of its kind in the UK.  

A major revamp in 2008, when many of its idiosyncratic nooks and crannies were torn out, the garden disembowelled and its ornate concert room turned into a daytime restaurant, met with fierce public criticism.

Nevertheless, it has stoically marched on. In the past few years its gallery programme, curated by Bryan Biggs, has continued to show foremost UK and international artists while outreach work has engaged with audiences from vulnerable communities. Perhaps, more pertinently, on this occasion, the garden is capable of hosting a very decent knees up. Don't let this lot put you off.

Its 2017 anniversary programme sees 300 days of celebration, from February 4 to November 30, comprising exhibitions, performances of music, dance and live art, literature events, commissions, a sociologist in residence, and a major heritage participation project, My Bluecoat.

Mary Cloake, Bluecoat’s Chief Executive, said “We’re over half way through our exciting programme of tercentenary year celebrations, which has included events, exhibitions, and even royal visits. Before we launch into our packed autumn / winter programme, we’d like to mark the end of a very special Bluecoat summer by inviting the people of Liverpool to a big celebration of our beautiful and important building. It is thanks to their support that Bluecoat has been able to achieve so much during its 300 years, and we look forward to celebrating with them.

For the full Bluecoat Heritage Week programme visit here.