Last week we went to visit the brand new, 37 million pound Storyhouse on their opening day. Storyhouse is Chester’s brand new cultural centre; home to a theatre, cinema, library, studio theatre, restaurant, and bar.

Storyhouse is a place to come together to make, share and discover stories

Funded and supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Arts Council the team have designed one of the most inspiring new arts buildings in the country. Exploring the building and learning about their offer has been so motivating as we await our decision from the Heritage Lottery Fund and can’t wait to get started on our nationally significant cultural project for Blackpool.

The Storyhouse project has repurposed and rejuvenated the 1930s art deco Odeon cinema building to include;

– A state of the art theatre which can transform from an 800 seat proscenium (the Touring Stage) to a 500 seat thrust (the Storyhouse stage).

– 100-seat boutique cinema with plush red velvet, and soft, sunken seating. The will be showing a range of films including; main features, world films, family films and classics.

– The library which spreads right through the building, with family-friendly library activity happening across all Storyhouse’s spaces.

– New children’s area offering opportunities for wet-play, arts and crafts activity and storytelling.

– New study areas to study, learn and research.

– The Kitchen is the food and drink offer, serving fresh and vibrant food from the Eastern Mediterranean. Open to the public (and completely full on opening day!) you could meet for pre-show drinks, enjoy a meal surrounded by books, sip a coffee whilst using the free wifi or run in a grab a snack on the go.

Arriving at Storyhouse I was greeted by smiley volunteers, I entered an impressive foyer space with a plush seating area. There was a real buzz inside with people exploring the new spaces and enjoying all the small, personal touches in the redesign, including the dressing up cupboard under the stairs.

The children’s library was friendly, inspiring and playful. Whilst the design was fundamentally a traditional bookshelf approach it could easily transform itself into a workshop area and dramatically lit storytelling space.

Storyhouse’s Artistic Director, Alex Clifton, has worked on the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre over the last seven years and seen audiences develop from 5,000 to 26,000. Storyhouse is destined to benefit from harnessing this ‘prosecco-swilling, picnic-snaffling, hearty, happy audience’ primed to lap up their new productions.

Storyhouse’s theatre opens with a season of four home-produced shows, the first being The Beggar’s Opera. As well as creating new shows, The Touring Stage will present the best international theatre, dance, opera, circus and comedy.

As we watch this project develop and thrive over time it will be testament to working with the community and building an audience along the journey. They have created an exciting vision for a multi-purpose building which will be Chester’s pièce de résistance.