Chester Storyhouse plans early opening

Published: 25 June 2020
Reporter: David Chadderton

Storyhouse, Chester

Storyhouse, an arts centre in Chester that incorporates a theatre, cinema, library and restaurant, has announced that it will reopen as soon as the government allows, possibly as early as 4 July.

The venue recently said it was in a “straightforward fight for survival” after postponing its open-air theatre season, which normally accounts for a fifth of its annual ticket income and costs three quarters of a million points to stage.

CEO Andrew Bentley said, “like every other theatre in the country, we are fighting to survive, and that jeopardy is very real unless something changes. There are plenty of headlines about theatres going into hibernation; we are a diverse business so that’s not for us. We will be open and supporting our community from day one, just as they are showing such support for us right now. It’s time for the country’s theatres to think about how they can reopen to serve their communities.”

Storyhouse recently launched a no-commitment theatre membership programme, which costs £4 a month, and has seen membership increase by two thousand in a week. It is also preparing to launch a drive-in cinema season, Moonlight Drive, from early July alongside its open-air cinema, along with plans to turn its main theatre into a cinema until Christmas.

Artistic Director Alex Clifton said, “if theatres aren’t going to be able to stage shows in the autumn, then we’re not going to wait. If we can’t gather people together around a stage, we’ll bring them together around a screen. We will open in any way we can to safely serve our community with great stories and joyful shared experiences.

“We’ve managed to keep over two thirds of our entire community programme going during lockdown, that’s over 350 online participation sessions since we closed on 16 March: language classes, karaoke, home schooling, reading clubs and storytelling. The first moment we are able, we will reopen our doors to support in person—particularly our more vulnerable communities. We need to start paying back this overwhelming support in whatever way we can.”