Jeremy was so impressed after giving a talk on the main stage about his memoir, What I Learnt, he offered up a slot on his Radio 2 show this afternoon (Friday, December 1).
It was obvious the popular presenter, who also hosts Eggheads on BBC2, had enjoyed his visit to Storyhouse because he tweeted as much to his 648,000 followers in a short video at the time.
Then today he invited the venue’s artistic director Alex Clifton to wax lyrical about what a success story the Storyhouse facility was proving with its theatre, cinema, library and cafe-bar.
Jeremy opened up the conversation with: “Chester – big town, big city, but you didn’t have a cultural place like this at all, did you?”
Alex responded: “No, and it’s been sorely missed, of course it has, and there’s been a significant investment come in from the local authority, our partners, who have been really supportive and driven our vision for culture having a transformational impact on the city.
“And the theatre lights the city up at night like a beacon and of course the library and the restaurant. We are busy all day.”
Alex publicised the Christmas show based on Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven, which has its premiere tonight (Friday), but also mentioned Jeremy’s recent appearance at the theatre, which only opened in May.
He continued: “We have a really special theatre and it transforms as well. We were delighted to have you in it, in our 850-seat proscenium, but just right now we have transformed it back into our much more intimate 500-seat thrust stage where the audience is wrapped around the action.”
Alex mentioned at that very moment there were primary school children in the 40-seat storytelling room ‘listening and making music together’.
He concluded: “We are here to celebrate creativity, to try and normalise creativity in our community and bring people together around big social stories, big community debates and we have become a hub for that kind of conversation.”
Angela Ferguson, who runs the blog ‘We are Chester’, echoed Alex’s words describing Storyhouse as ‘a really special place’ with a ‘lovely sense of community’ where people could meet friends old and new.
“We are so proud, I think you can see that from the response,” she said.
“Alex Clifton summed it up perfectly. Storyhouse is like a beacon shining a light on all the good cultural comings and goings in Chester. You know, you walk in there, you can chill out, you can take a book, you can browse books until 11pm at night, how many places can you do that in the UK?”
Angela said there was ‘loads of great stuff going on’ including ‘lots of free activities’. Her daughter was involved in the youth theatre and she had ‘seen the difference in her confidence’.
And the blogger, who candidly admits to having suffered depression and anxiety in the past, continued: “I’m a strong believer in culture and the arts as a form of therapy for general illness or mental illness and we’ve got the likes of Fallen Angels who are a dance group for people in recovery who are a partner organisation with Storyhouse. They are doing fantastic work.”
She joked: “It’s almost like there’s too much going on in Chester now which I’m not complaining about for a moment!”
Jeremy commented: “We are just talking about arts and culture and how important they are to our souls and our spirits, whatever you like – high or low – it doesn’t really matter, does it? If you enjoy it, if it feeds you. So Chester is being fed by the Storyhouse.”