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About The Black-E

About The Black-E

About Us

Connecting artists with our communities…


The Black-E (formerly known as the Great Georges Project), began with the commitment to combine a world-class contemporary arts centre, with a community centre. Having taken over the former Great George Street Congregational Church in October 1967, with the support of the late Sir Peter Moores – the team of artists led by Wendy and Bill Harpe began their cultural adventures with the long-term aim of an ‘open door’ policy.

The team would later be joined by the late Sally Morris. They became the U.K.’s first national participatory community arts centre. Creating a centre where artists (performing and making, experimental and traditional) connected with anyone, from any background, who chose to come through the door.

The proximity of the building within Britain’s oldest established African-Caribbean community – and to Europe’s oldest Chinatown – meant that cultural diversity is celebrated as a natural phenomenon.

“The Art of Survival: Here at the Black-E we are striving to remain dynamic; a driver of cultural collaboration and innovation. We are adept at using co-production to promote opportunities to authentically involve people in what we do and make.

We want to build on the legacy of our cultural founders (Bill & Wendy Harpe and Sally Morris) by keeping our work relevant and being champions of inclusive cultural leadership.

Our contribution to supporting the Arts Council of England’s Let’s Create, Strategy 2020 – 2030 is to remain ambitious in striving for cultural equity.  Making space for artists and cultural practitioners from communities and groups who have historically been underfunded and underrepresented in cultural decision-making.  Because we know that culture is the signature of humanity.”

Alexandra Ankrah - Chair of TrusteesPhoto: Alexandra Ankrah - Chair of Trustees
Alexandra Ankrah, Chair of Trustees (Appointed to Trust Board July 2022)

The Building

Great George Street Congregational Chapel

The Chapel was designed, built, furnished and opened in 18 months after the first church on the site (built in 1811) was destroyed by fire in 1840. The plans and designs for the new church were donated by Joseph Franklin, the City Architect. The foundation stone was laid on 7 July 1840 and the new chapel opened on 21 October 1841. The chapel cost £13,992 to build and seated almost 2,000. It became popularly known as ‘Liverpool’s Third Cathedral’.

Our home and base is the former Great George Street Congregational Chapel and originally derived its familiar name the Black-E as a shortened version of ‘The Black Church’ – a description of the Chapel in the 1960s covered with over a hundred years of inner-city smoke and grime. Although stone cleaned in the 1980s the building still retains its name.

Supporting the Nation’s Creative Ambition

The Four Investment Principles are closely interconnected

Inclusivity & Relevance

At the Black-E we are supporting diversity & inclusion and this is fully reflected across our work and the organisations we choose to work with and the arts and culture we produce.

inclusivity and relevance
ambition and quality

Ambition & Quality

We are proud of our ambition and the ways we involve all of our people in improving the quality of our work and what we do.


The Black-E is, and will always be, dynamic – we have survived for over 50 years by responding to the challenges of future.

environmental responsibility

Environmental Responsibility

As champions of inter-generational practice, we want to help lead the way in growing environmental responsibility and ensuring a better future for everyone.

Aerial Theatre PerformersPhoto: Aerial Theatre Performers

The Black-E ‘s diversity is fully reflected in the individuals and organisations we work with and the arts and culture we produce.

Inclusivity & Relevance is at our Core

Inclusivity & Relevance

Communities and leadership:
The Black-E’s Board is always made up of 50% of local people, people from working-class backgrounds, who are accountable to our community. As volunteers, they help run our building and are involved in creating our programmes and are actively listening to, and taking account of, the views of the local community, children and young people, artists, and practitioners. Our work over 50 years has been founded on relationships with the local underserved communities. We provide a cultural anchor & we matter to people.

Workforce, Leadership and Governance:
Black-E’s workforce, leadership and governance uniquely reflects the communities we are serving: making it majority African, Caribbean and Asian Heritage. We have used our cultural practice, including cultural co-operation games created by Bill Harpe, to foster a safe workplace where harassment and discrimination can be challenged – our mission is about breaking bias and proactively tackling discrimination.

We are committed to keeping everyone safe.  But we also know we have a special duty to the most vulnerable in our society. Help us by reading our Safeguarding policy.

Photo: Mural by Karl Eversley, Visual Artist.

Our Partners

Contact The BLACK-E

The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, Liverpool L1 5EW UK

Tel: +44 (0)151 709 5109   Email:

image sources

  • alexandra-ankrah-chair-of-trustees: Alexandra Ankrah - Chair of Trustees
  • inclusivity-and-relevance-image: Aerial Theatre Performers
  • black-e-about-us-page-image-01-balloon-play-in-studio: 'Balloon" play in the studio
  • black-e-about-us-page-image-02-chinese-dance: Chinese dancer Fenfen Huang performs
  • black-e-about-us-page-image-03-artwork: Visual Artist Mural.
  • black-e-about-us-page-image-04-chinese-new-year: Chinese New Year | Robert Ambrose