The launch of Chester’s £37m Storyhouse cultural centre will be celebrated in a street carnival atmosphere when hundreds of children form a human chain surrounded by musicians, dancers and storytellers.

Storyhouse incorporates a theatre, single screen cinema and, significantly, the city’s main library – which is where the 300 local primary school children come in.

They will form a 250-metre human chain or ‘book worm’ and pass up to 5,000 children’s books from the former city centre library to inside the brand new Storyhouse children’s library on Thursday, May 4, exactly a week before the actual opening.

Project director Graham Lister provides a sneak preview around Chester's Storyhouse cultural centre which opens on May 11.

Local buskers, dancers, drummers, musicians, dancers and storytellers will perform to the children and around the ‘book worm’ to celebrate the opening of Storyhouse as a community cultural centre between 10.15am and 2pm.

The children will then be invited inside Storyhouse for party games, storytelling and cake, as well as being awarded certificates and library cards.

Storyhouse shunned the idea of a big celebrity opening to reflect the ambition for the venue to put the ‘community at its heart’. However, there should still be a sense of occasion on the May 11 opening night with plans for a red carpet and search lights.

BBC Radio Merseyside are planning to broadcast their breakfast show live from Storyhouse and BBC North West Tonight are talking about an outside broadcast in the evening.

Participating children in the May 4 pre-launch event have been invited by Storyhouse’s partner, Passion for Learning, a community interest company supporting primary schools in Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Diane Clark from Passion for Learning commented: “We are delighted to be involved with Storyhouse in this great event and know that the children will be so excited to see inside the new building for the first time. This is a great opportunity for children and their families from our local communities to come and explore what this wonderful cultural centre has to offer them.”

Chester's brand new £37m Storyhouse cultural centre opens on Thursday May 11, with a pre-launch community event on May 4. Picture: Mark Carline

Members of the public are welcome to come and watch, take part in special sneak-peek tours of the building being conducted throughout the day on the hour (from 11am ending with the last one at 6pm) by signing up on the day and at 5pm to help move the remainder of the children books into Storyhouse in another ‘book worm’.

Alex Clifton, artistic director, Storyhouse, said “This is a building that will be brought to life by the community. The community of local performers and the brilliant local buskers will be the first to perform at Storyhouse, with music, dance and live art performed to and with primary school children from across the borough.

Alex Clifton, artistic director of Storyhouse
Alex Clifton, artistic director of Storyhouse

“Our innovative 21st century library is putting the community at the heart of its collection, and our book worm carnival is the perfect way to start, and the only way we could start.”

Volunteers from principal sponsor of Storyhouse, MBNA, will be part of the community launch by supporting the team delivering the event and transporting the books.

Employees at the credit card provider’s Chester head office have been involved with Storyhouse from the outset, and are now ramping up their activities including participating in test events, in the library handover and through the building’s unique ‘innovation wall’.

Mark Elliott, director of corporate affairs at MBNA, said: “People are at the heart of what we do at MBNA. We want to make good stuff happen for the community around us. So we’re hugely proud to be able to support this incredible new cultural investment for the region.”

The directors of Storyhouse associate company, Yet Another Carnival, Freyja Winterson, Thomas Frith and John Young are artistic directors of the community launch.

Storyhouse opens on May 11 with a production of musical comedy The Beggar’s Opera. The inaugural season of shows include Alice in Wonderland plus Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar. The autumn touring season features the UK’s leading stand-up comedians, West End hits, musicals and drama.

The building will be open from 8am on the first morning when people can buy coffee, check out a book and book tickets for a show. The first movie screening is on Friday, May 12.

Countdown to curtain up

Storyhouse opens in

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