Northwest agencies, Nonconform & Polymorph, commissioned to unlock hidden treasures of Liverpool’s oldest building

My Bluecoat, Bluecoat's 300th year anniversay project is being supported by Nonconform & Polymorph

Northwest agencies, Nonconform & Polymorph, commissioned to help unlock hidden treasures of Liverpool’s oldest building

Nonconform and Polymorph will develop the My Bluecoat digital archive project, bringing together the official history of the UK’s oldest arts centre for the first time.

Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, has commissioned Liverpool-based marketing, design and digital agency Nonconform, and Runcorn IT services company Polymorph to deliver My Bluecoat an extraordinary digital project that will highlight, share and celebrate the heritage of the iconic Liverpool building on the occasion of its 300th birthday in 2017.

My Bluecoat, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is an archives collation, access and web-based engagement project that will catalogue and digitise a collection of historic materials and records currently split over three sites – Bluecoat, the Liverpool Blue Coat School (original occupiers of the Grade One listed building) and Liverpool Record Office.

It is estimated that, thanks to National Lottery players, 10,000 files will be made available to the public, revealing the incredible heritage of the building, which has been in continuous use since 1717, first as a charity school for nearly 200 years, then a centre for the arts for over 100 years.

The two Northwest agencies will work together to develop a database to house these digital archives, and the My Bluecoat website which will make these archives accessible to the public.


The building has a long, symbiotic relationship to Liverpool and its people. It is an active symbol of the city’s cultural heritage, its presence a reminder of the port’s origins and mercantile, maritime growth.

In addition to the existing archive, which charts the ‘official’ history, Bluecoat will commission around 30 ‘vignettes’, capturing the memories of a range of people with a special association to the building. These will most likely be a mixture of oral histories and short, filmed interviews, with some animation.

Nonconform and Polymorph responded in partnership to a competitive tender opportunity requiring agencies to demonstrate a robust approach to scoping the database project, as well as the flair and ability to architect and design an engaging website experience for a range of users.

And this week, Bluecoat announced that it had been successful in raising the required funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver the project, with Nonconform and Polymorph confirmed as design and digital partners.

Jonny Biggs, Nonconform’s Digital Director said “It’s an honour to be entrusted to work on such a significant project, one that is not just important for Bluecoat, but for the city of Liverpool and for all the artists, historians, researchers, academics and arts professionals around the world who will now be able to access this remarkable archive.”

Gavin Davenport, My Bluecoat Project Manager said “ My Bluecoat will identify and record the many layers of Bluecoat’s heritage: of the building itself, with its distinctive architecture, and its history as, first, a charity school for orphans in the 18th and 19th centuries, then as a nationally significant arts centre (the UK’s first) in the 20th century.

As you can imagine, this is a complex project, and we’re determined to create something that will provide a genuinely engaging heritage experience. We also want this to live on and grow as a resource.

What convinced us about the approach of Nonconform and Polymorph was their clear understanding of the need for specialist skills on both the visual and user experience elements and the need for a robust and scalable technical database solution.”

L-R Jonny Biggs (Digital Director Nonconform) and Gavin Davenport (My Bluecoat Project Manager)
L-R Jonny Biggs (Digital Director Nonconform) and Gavin Davenport (My Bluecoat Project Manager)