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On the wacky Black-E

£6m revamp opens up hidden but gorgeous Great George's Street gem

Published on October 13th 2010.


On the wacky Black-E

THOUSANDS of people pass it every day, a building so large it has the capacity to accommodate 2,000 people. Its front door boasts what were the highest monolith pillars in the land. It’s Liverpool’s biggest and most highly visible “hidden” cultural gem.

Suddenly Liverpool city centre has an amazing new venue, a proper arts centre capable of staging boxing, fashion shows, exhibitions and demonstrations.

This is the Black-E, formerly known as the Blackie, a name derived because, like many buildings in Liverpool, it was discoloured by a century of soot propelled from tens of thousands of domestic coal fires.

The Black-E, transformed as part of a multi-million pound project, has relaunched itself to build on its tradition as a multi-purpose community arts facility, and now boasting a vast performance space.

That impressive space, created at a cost of around £6m is the final, but largest piece in a jigsaw that has taken almost 40 years to complete.

Suddenly Liverpool city centre has an amazing new venue, a proper arts centre; a space capable of staging anything from boxing to fashion shows to exhibitions and demonstrations.

Even a church group is holding its weekly service at the new-look Black-E.

What’s incredible about the huge former Great George Street Congregational Church next to the arch at the heart of Chinatown is the speed of its erection in early days of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Designed by Joseph Franklin, it replaced a chapel which burned down. The foundation stone was laid on July 7, 1840 and the magnificent building opened for worship barely 15 months later in October 1841.

In the years after WWII, the number of worshippers declined, many leaving the city centre for pastures new, and in February 1967 the grand organ fell silent.


By Larry Neild

A year later it was bought by the Peter Moores Foundation and became home to the UK’s first community arts programme, run by Bill and Wendy Harpe.

Since then they and the team have provided a feast of community projects, mainly for the local population of this part of the inner city. The dream, though, was always to create a huge multi-purpose cultural and arts centre, and this has now been achieved. The new floor has a double gallery enjoying a spectacular vantage of the space below.

Although the Black-E is a hive of cultural activity, few of the thousands who pass it every day on 82cs, ever enter its grand front door. That, though, maychange with the new opportunities available with the completion of work.

So it was the Black-E staged an Inaugural Event as a way of saying thank you to its funders: a show to give a snapshot at the multitude of activities. With populist X Factor overtones, it was the audience who decided which acts it wanted to see live on stage.

The dancing, singing and demonstrations from performers was impressive. Even a display by the boxing club based at the Black-E was choreographed to look like something from West Side Story.

Currently the Black-E is playing a part in the Liverpool Biennial which is attracting many first-time visitors to the building. After so long hidden away, the Black-E has finally taking its place in Liverpool’s recognised cultural collection.

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Colonel GingerOctober 13th 2010.

I had no idea the Victorians were stunned by the speed of Mr Harpe's erection.

Liverpool BiennialOctober 13th 2010.

Liverpool Biennial in the Black-E! Kris Martin hangs a massive sword from the ceiling.

biennial.com/…/KrisMartin11.aspx…

Major DisorderOctober 14th 2010.

The 82C? You're going back a bit! The 82C disappeared when the bus services were deregulated in October 1986 and they became an expensive, unreliable nightmare overnight.

I remember chatting to the young Cathy Tyson on the top deck of an 82C before she was famous.

WhatsIsNameOctober 14th 2010.

It's such a pity they didn't come up with a better name to coincide with their new beginning. If they had called the Royal Liver Building the Blackie (because it also suffered from decades of soot which discoloured its surface) we wouldn't be a World Heritage Site. The Black-E is a terrible name, no meaning, no geographic reference. I think the people running it should have commissioned an independent research project to ask people not linked to the Blackie, for their perceptions and thoughts. It's name could well condemn the Black-E to remaining a hidden cultural gem. Shame really, so much potential, so little thought.

E-Street BluesOctober 14th 2010.

Why have they renamed it?? Is the E meant to be trendy, for our cyber times?

AnonymousOctober 14th 2010.

One of the problems for the Black-E is poor parking provision in that part of Liverpool. Perhaps we all need to travel there on the 82C or whatever its called these days.

EditorialOctober 14th 2010.

Major Disorder. Our fault for inserting the dreaded C after the number 82 in Larry's copy, but there is certainly an 82, an 82D and an 82E.

Would you like to drop us your email address? Merseytravel are offering us a number of anoraks for a competition.

General CollapseOctober 14th 2010.

Hear hear!

“The Black-E” is indeed a silly name as the building not been black for a long time, it is not E-shaped/an ecstasy tablet/Worthington E.

They could call it the Congregational Church but what on earth is wrong with ‘The Blackie´, the name by which it has been well-known and loved for forty years?

Medical OfficerOctober 14th 2010.

'The Black-I' would be more fitting for a venue that staged boxing matches.

Truculent TypistOctober 14th 2010.

I do wish you'd sort E”out these silly symbol’s that appear on this sh’ite! It's been open for weeks now and it still isn't fixed.

Jade GoodyOctober 14th 2010.

I am from Essex and call it the Black-A

Technically mindedOctober 14th 2010.

"I don't have these problems. Try using the correct character set!"

Lee VitahtOctober 14th 2010.

You are brahn bread, mite!

Master BakerOctober 14th 2010.

More of a Rathbone's Thick White actually...

Truculent TypistOctober 14th 2010.

Where does one procure these "character sets"?

Truculent TypistOctober 14th 2010.

Oh look it's working now and I've done nothing; obviously it was something up your end.

AnonymousOctober 15th 2010.

Black-E, terrible name. Why not call it the Peter Moores Cultural Centre. After all it's because of him the place exists.

Kris P. Kreme. Liverpool Kulturkampf SupremoOctober 15th 2010.

Yo dude! Who is Peter Moores?

Black is blackOctober 15th 2010.

Peter Moores cultural centre? don't be friggin daft.

LiverpolitanOctober 15th 2010.

Good idea. The Moores brothers were philanthropists on a scale we are unlikely to see in Liverpool again. Their shops have gone their football pools and even their statue in Church Street.
Is the Peter Moores Exhibition still taking place in alternate years at the Walker Art Gallery?

It would be good to have something lasting named after the brothers before the light-headed fashion victims that now run everything airbrush them completely out of Liverpool social history.

And informally we could call it – The Blackie!

Vernon SpoolsOctober 18th 2010.

John Moores will be remembered because of the university that bears his name, but what is there to commemorate Peter Moores?

He made this place possible, ‘The Peter Moores Cultural Centre´ is a good idea.

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