The eagerly-awaited new £37m Chester cultural centre has been named Storyhouse.

The announcement of the name marks a significant step towards realising the dream of providing the city centre with a major world class venue which will incorporate a theatre, single screen cinema, studio theatre space and become the new home for Chester Library.

It is being created in the former Odeon building which dates back to 1936 and many features of the former cinema are being incorporated into the new complex.

The announcement comes at the end of an extensive process, led by Manchester agency True North, which included a public consultation and work with the centre’s stakeholders and partners, including Cheshire West and Chester Council, Arts Council England, and principal sponsor MBNA.

Storyhouse is to be the name for the new cultural centre in Chester
Storyhouse is to be the name for the new cultural centre in Chester

Members of the public were invited to meet the brand designers and more than 200 suggestions were submitted across two days of drop-in sessions.

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Cultural centre operator Chester Performs has also revealed it plans to change its name to reflect the building’s new identity which will mean bringing established projects such as the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre under the same umbrella.

The company’s chief executive, Andrew Bentley, said: “We’re over the moon at our new identity. It’s a straightforward expression of the journey we have been on as a company and where, together, we are going in this amazing new building. In time the name will become synonymous with our work and we will be selling tickets under the Storyhouse brand from March 17.”

Artistic director Alex Clifton added: “We will be running a building like no other. It needs a unique name to reflect its unique offer. This is a place to discover, make and share great stories. It’s a place to bring inspiring ideas to life. Storyhouse brilliantly captures and communicates the creative spirit of our integrated library, theatre and cinema.”

Storyhouse logo
Storyhouse logo

Lead partners Cheshire West and Chester Council, who are behind the project - investing more than £30m in the scheme and also managing its construction - have welcomed the new name.

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Cllr Louise Gittins, Cabinet member for culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “I hope our residents will agree that Storyhouse is a wonderfully fitting name for a cultural centre that blends theatre, music, dance, literature and cinema.

“I have no doubt Storyhouse will itself prove a success story in the council’s commitment to invest in inclusive leisure and culture to make our borough a great place to live and visit.”

Ian O’Doherty, CEO of MBNA, who have also made a significant investment in the project, said: “Everyone at MBNA is excited to see what great progress the project is making. The new name is another important milestone towards delivering this world-class cultural centre for the borough. We’re delighted to be a part of the story.”

Cllr Stuart Parker, Opposition spokesman for culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “This is a brilliant name for what I believe will be a fantastic cultural centre for the city and wider borough. I am delighted to see the progress being made on developing the project and I can’t wait for its eventual opening at the end of the year.”

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Storyhouse, which is the country’s largest regional arts project under construction, will be the first major arts project to combine the management of a major theatre and library under one organisation.

The integration of library services with arts organisations is a key strategic priority for Arts Council England whose chief executive Darren Henley said: “Storyhouse is a hugely ambitious project and we are delighted to be working alongside Cheshire West and Chester, Chester Performs and Chester University as key partners in its development.

“The announcement of its name represents a major milestone along the road to opening what will be a stunning, ground breaking venue for Cheshire.”

The new building incorporates a theatre which switches twice a year between an 800 seat proscenium space and 500 seat thrust ‘festival’ stage, along with a 150 seat studio.

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Storyhouse will stage home produced productions for 50% of the year, with the theatre presenting the best of the country’s touring companies during the principal touring season.

Alex Clifton said: “The company will run the building as much as a visitor experience as a performing arts venue. Our public spaces form the backbone of the project and will change every day. They are the heart of our building and will be the busiest, most creative area of our work. We are on a mission to democratise culture, making open spaces which communities will programme and manage themselves. Theirs are the stories we want to tell.”

To find out more visit www.chesterperforms.com