Chester’s new £37m arts venue has opened its doors to the public.
The project was delivered by Kier as lead contractor, with Bennetts Associates as lead architect, Sandy Brown Associates as acoustics consultant and Charcoalblue as theatre consultant. The project involved the addition of a new theatre building, which can either seat 800 or 500 in a “wraparound” format, linked to the new library within the 1930s former Odeon building.
This space also includes a café, study spaces and a 150-seat cinema/theatre space, along with open plan foyers, hospitality spaces and areas dedicated to children. At 80,700 sq ft, Storyhouse is Chester’s largest public building.
The project was principally funded by Cheshire West & Chester and Arts Council England, with a £600,000 capital contribution from MBNA. In June 2016 Storyhouse received its first ongoing revenue commitment, a multi-year six-figure donation from the Oglesby Charitable Trust.
Artistic director Alex Clifton said: “We are delighted to be opening the door of Storyhouse to the public who will finally be able to enjoy a range of incredible theatre, literature, performance, and art every day of the week in Chester.”
Storyhouse has been well received on social media, with excitement being the main theme:
— Jack Rowley (@InboundJack) May 11, 2017
Other comments included Liverpool Everyman’s “Super-excited for our friends @StoryhouseLive opening” and Nollaig McEvilly: “So excited to see that @StoryhouseLive is open!”
The opening ends a decade-long absence of cinema and theatre facilities from the city centre. Storyhouse is the first part of Cheshire West & Chester’s plans to reinvent the cultural offer in the city, where residents have long been awaiting progress on the £300m mixed-use Northgate project, which has been in the pipeline for more than a decade.
Although funding for the full project is yet to be finalised, recent developments on Northgate have been encouraging, such as the confirmation of Picturehouse as a cinema operator in September 2016, followed by February’s announcement of a 100,000 sq ft anchor store pre-let to House of Fraser and a hotel deal with Crowne Plaza.
The professional team on Storyhouse also included WSP as structural engineer, Foreman Roberts on M&E, WYG as planning consultant and Tweed Nuttall Warburton and Peter de Figueiredo as heritage consultants. Ellis Williams was the delivery architect.
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