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Storyhouse, Chester Cultural Centre

This highly complex award winning project for Cheshire West and Chester Council, including the listed restoration and refurbishment of the Grade II-listed cinema building and part new build, creates a sustainable world-class new arts complex where theatre, film and library services co-exist under one roof. Partly funded by the Arts Council fund for England, it was the UK’s largest regional arts project and biggest capital development in Chester for 50 years.

The centre is a cultural hub where diverse audiences and artists connect and make use of the building in many different ways, and provides a cultural destination point welcoming audiences from the region and beyond. This immensely challenging project has overcome a number of sensitive issues relating to diverse end user groups, local resident concerns, planning, conservation and archaeology approvals.

The project includes a new building containing a revolutionary adaptable 500-800 seat theatre and thrust stage able to transform itself from a summer festival stage into a winter touring proscenium house and a new 100-seat studio venue located above the theatre. Inside the old cinema auditorium the complex includes a new 94 seat ‘boutique’ cinema, restaurant, bar, cafe and the city’s relocated library.

Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by The Duchess of Sussex, formally opened Storyhouse on Thursday 14 June. They had a tour of the building before being treated to a series of performances by local children, a dance theatre company for people in recovery from addiction and a medley of songs from Storyhouse.  The Queen’s final duty was to  unveil a special plaque to mark the official opening of Storyhouse


  • RIBA North West Award

  • Large Visitor Attraction – Marketing Cheshire Awards

  • Cheshire West and Chester 2021 Civic Award for Design and Conservation.

  • RIBA National Award

  • North-West Region.

  • ‘Best Change of Use of an Existing Building’ category – LABC Building Excellence Awards

  • Special Award for Community Impact and Engagement – Civic Trust Awards.

  • Best Entertainment or Leisure Venue FX – Design Awards

  • Project of The Year 2018 - North West Regional Construction Award

  • Preservation and Rejuvenation Award

  • Refurbishment Project of the Year – Building Awards 2017

The Queen and Megan Markle formerly open Storyhouse Cultural Centre, Chester
The Queen and Megan Markle Storyhouse Cultural Centre, Chester

Storyhouse has proudly reported that since opening on 11th May 2017 until 7th December, their visitor numbers have exceeded 500,000.  The library has seen a record number for the borough, an increase of 145% since 2016.  11% of Storyhouse’s visitors have health or disability issues, of which 91% rated the disability access as good or very good.  Furthermore, 52% of visitors said that Storyhouse was important in their decision to visit Chester.

The project is widely seen as an exemplar cultural venue that has delivered real impact in Chester and the surrounding region, both culturally and financially – contributing an estimated £23m to the region’s economy in 2018-19, including £1.9m spent on local production alone, and supporting 156FTE jobs. The estimated value of tourism in the Cheshire West and Chester area has risen to £2.12 billion and a 15 per cent increase in footfall in a key location in Chester city centre has been attributed to the Storyhouse opening.

Ellis Williams were the Executive Architects and worked alongside the original concept architects (Bennetts Associates) during design development and technical design, providing collaborative architectural services. This was followed by Ellis Williams’ sole, full-service site delivery from pre-construction stage onwards.


One of the most exciting projects in England at the moment… A powerful, modern, forward-thinking vision

Sir Peter Bazalgette – Chairman, Arts Council



There is such a positive vibe, a real buzz about the opening of Storyhouse… Not only will this help turn the new cultural centre into a focal point of activity in the city, it will also prolong the existence of a library in Chester… Chester finally has the cultural centre it deserves.

The Chester Chronicle



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