Chester’s new £37m Storyhouse cultural centre welcomed an incredible 10,000 visitors in its opening weekend.
The project to transform Chester’s former Art Deco Odeon cinema into an international cultural centre reached its completion and opened its doors last Thursday (May 11).
Storyhouse recorded 10,000 visits over the opening weekend, with 3,500 visits on Saturday. More than 2,000 books were loaned from the library and 300 new library cards issued, compared to six on the same Saturday in 2016.
There were performances of The Beggar’s Opera on the Storyhouse stage and screenings of the films Their Finest, Sense of an Ending and Letters to Baghdad in the boutique cinema.
The library had regular storytelling in the dedicated storytelling room, arts and crafts and messy play. The restaurant was fully booked and was a bustling hub across the weekend.
Andrew Bentley, CEO of Storyhouse, said: “There has been a tremendous response from the public and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors over the coming months. People are making the building their own; they seem at home here – and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
Graham Lister, project director of Storyhouse, said: “It was a wonderful feeling welcoming people to the borough’s new cultural centre, here in the heart of Chester.
“We saw families in the library, teenagers in the cinema, couples at the theatre, groups of friends in the restaurant and in every corner individuals reading books or tapping away on laptops. Here’s to many more people discovering Storyhouse soon.”
Mark Elliott, director of corporate affairs at sponsors MBNA, said: “We are hugely proud to call Chester our home and we are dedicated to helping drive the city’s cultural agenda. Storyhouse is an incredible space, we are delighted to be supporting such an inspirational project.”
Storyhouse has been carved out of the Grade II listed shell of the former Odeon cinema, alongside a new brick and translucent glass extension.
The Storyhouse library, restaurant and independent cinema are housed in the former Odeon’s streamlined art-deco interior. The uniquely flexible 800/500 seat auditorium, 150-seat community studio and rooftop bar are housed in the new extension.
Designed by Bennetts Associates and principally funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council and Arts Council England with substantial funding from credit card expert MBNA, Storyhouse is the largest public building ever in Chester.
Full of new creative spaces, the theatre in the spring and autumn is an 800 seat proscenium arch presenting national and international touring productions, which transforms into a more intimate 500 seat thrust in the summer and at Christmas.
Other spaces include a 150 seat studio theatre, open plan foyers, hospitality spaces, and a library that spills across all areas of the operation – including a dedicated children’s library complete with wet play, arts and crafts spaces and a storytelling room.
Storyhouse’s theatre opens with a run of home produced shows, premiered on the 500-seat wraparound Storyhouse Stage. The theatre launched with a riotous new musical based on The Beggar’s Opera, directed by Alex Clifton with music and lyrics by Harry Blake.
Coming soon are the premiere of playwright Glyn Maxwell’s joyful new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, directed by Derek Bond, Shakespeare’s brutal political thriller Julius Caesar, directed by Loveday Ingram, and comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream also directed by Alex Clifton.
The four shows are spread right across the summer and, uniquely, audiences will be able to choose between seeing productions in the new theatre, and in Storyhouse’s award-winning Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Alice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar transfer into Grosvenor Park for the height of summer, while The Beggar’s Opera continues inside.
To find out more and book visit www.storyhouse.com.