Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 11:59 UK

Fire at historic city arts centre

The Bluecoat's fire-damaged building
The Bluecoat arts centre was recently reopened after a refurbishment

Liverpool's newly refurbished Bluecoat, believed to be the oldest arts centre in the UK, has been damaged by fire.

About 30 firefighters were called to the Grade-I listed building on School Lane on Tuesday morning after a fire broke out in the kitchen area.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze but about 20% of the building is heavily smoke-logged.

The Bluecoat, said to be the oldest building in the city, was reopened in March after a 12.5m refit.

Peter Owens, of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We have thrown a lot of resources at the fire - it's a very important building to the city.

"When the firefighters arrived, a window popped. The fire was confined to the first-floor kitchen and there is severe smoke damage to the restaurant.

"No-one was injured and no firefighters were injured."

Mr Owens said none of the art galleries or performance rooms at the centre had been affected but the centre's directors were distraught by the blaze.

Bluecoat arts centre
It is the oldest arts centre in the UK and the oldest building in Liverpool city centre
Bluecoat spokesman

Mr Owens added: "They were upset by the damage. They are keen to keep the place running. They have just got a body of work in front of them."

The redeveloped centre includes a new arts wing, four new galleries a 200-seat performance space, a new coffee outlet, bar and restaurant and creative industry studios.

An exhibition called Now Then, featuring work from Yoko Ono, Paul Morrison, Alec Finlay, Hew Locke and Janet Hodgson, marked the re-opening of the building.

A spokesman for The Bluecoat said: "It is the oldest arts centre in the UK and the oldest building in Liverpool city centre."

Fire crews remain damping down at the scene, said a spokeswoman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

"We have got a team investigating what happened but it is too early to say what caused the fire," she added.

Work on the elegant building, originally used as a school, began in 1716 and was completed nine years later.

It was first taken over as an arts space in 1908 when the school moved to a new, larger site in Wavertree.

Yoko Ono to perform at art centre
07 Feb 08 |  Merseyside

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