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The Blue Coat School is delighted to have received a £17,800 Heritage Lottery Fund initial grant to develop an exciting and nationally important project, centred on the restoration of our historic Father Willis organ.

Thanks to support from National Lottery players, the project, Blue Coat: For All, plans to restore our rare 1874 pipe organ. It will be used to give public access to the school for concerts and events. Funding would also go towards the preservation of our extensive archive.

As part of the grant we must raise a further £25,000 towards the project through donations and direct fundraising. If you would like to help us reach our fundraising target please get in touch with the Development team at or on 0151 733 1407.

The Father Willis organ will be the prominent centrepiece of a wider major restoration of Shirley Hall, named after a former Trustee and benefactor W H Shirley.

The museum-quality Father Willis organ was originally installed in the original Liverpool Blue Coat School building, now the Bluecoat Arts Centre, in the city centre. The organ is a rare school chapel instrument, made even rarer by being in a state school, and would have been heard by John Lennon’s father Alfred, a Blue Coat students during the 1920s, but the restoration project is far more than simply preserving the past.

In a separate initiative to expand the use of the restored Father Willis organ, plans for a Blue Coat Organ Scholarship, for both pupils and external students, using our Willis organ and both Liverpool Cathedral and Liverpool RC Metropolitan organs, have been proposed.

This would offer an unsurpassed training at a national level and also help address the national shortage of organists plus boost the number of female players. The organ scholarship will reinforce the city’s premier place on the classical music map.

Remarking on the project Mr Pennington stated: “The Blue Coat: For All project, thanks to the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is one of the most exciting and dynamic we have launched in many years. We shall not only be able to restore the Father Willis organ, which is a rare instrument of museum quality, but also use it as a spring-board to expand into an entirely new public musical realm, by bringing in the community to enjoy concerts at the Blue Coat School. Our organ scholarship proposal, combining the organ resources of our school with those of the two great Liverpool Cathedrals will create an unsurpassed national music training opportunity for young people.”

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