Chester’s Storyhouse will showcase its strong links with the community during a royal visit by the Queen accompanied by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
Community groups and schools will welcome the VIP guests to the venue on Thursday, June 14, where Her Majesty will unveil a plaque to mark its official opening.
Storyhouse, which has attracted a staggering one million visitors during its first year, is a cultural centre incorporating not only a theatre and cinema but also a library.
Activities to mark the official opening will be a celebration of a typical day at Storyhouse, where scrabble clubs and writing workshops meet alongside groups combatting social isolation, as well as a taste of what goes on the popular theatre.
Over the past few years, libraries across the country have closed their doors but by working closely with the community, the Storyhouse library is thriving.
In its first year 258,000 books were loaned with a 50% increase in children’s book loans since the library moved across from its old location. More than 2,000 activities are offered each year for marginalised groups.
Some of the community groups who meet regularly at Storyhouse have been invited to participate in the events on June 14 including:
■ Storyhouse Young Leaders – young people aged 14-25 who work across the organisation to develop new skills
■ Syrian Refugee Women’s Group
■ Digital Buddies – a free IT skills workshop and drop-in for anyone over 50
■ Improv Gym (weekly drama workshop for the over 50s)
■ Fallen Angels Dance Company who work with individuals recovering from addiction
■ Storytelling by a Police Community Support Officer and Deafness Support Network
Pupils from Kelsall Primary School , University Church Free School, The Queen’s Lower School, Chester Blue Coat CE Primary School , Upton Westlea Primary School , St Clare’s Catholic Primary School, St Werburgh’s R C School, Newton Primary School , Dee Point Primary School and The King’s Junior School will perform songs alongside actors from children’s classic ‘Swallows and Amazons’ which is on at Storyhouse over the summer.
Head of music at Queen’s Lower School Mrs Margaret Corlett, who is coordinating the musical input from local schools, said: “We’re so happy to be working with the choirs from 11 local primary schools to perform for Her Majesty The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex at Storyhouse.
“We’ve chosen our music and everyone working very hard to make sure we’re pitch perfect for the big day! The children are so excited to be part of such a high profile event and they are very much looking forward to seeing the Queen and the new Duchess in person!”
Andrew Bentley , chief executive of Storyhouse, said: “This amazing visit has been made possible by the tremendous support we have in Chester and in the region and is testament to the degree to which our community has taken us to their hearts and for that we are immensely grateful and proud.”
Alan Smith, project officer for Digital Buddies, added: “Every Friday morning since 2017, Digital Buddies has facilitated digital help for the over 50s and been meeting in Storyhouse. Initially a six-week project, the sessions have become a place for younger and older people to learn and impart digital skills, as well as a social hub.
"The use of the meeting room at Storyhouse has enabled us to grow. It is fantastic that Storyhouse has been recognised and that a royal visit will take place.”
Laura-Leigh Thompson of forfutures, who support the Syrian Refugee Women’s Group, commented: “Storyhouse has played a huge role in helping the forfutures women’s group to bring women together and enable them to feel comfortable in being who they want to be.
"I’m sure the royal visit will be a memory that the ladies will treasure for a very long time. We meet at Storyhouse because it provides the space for us to come together in an inclusive atmosphere which means no one feels excluded.”