BUSINESSES groups in Chester are joining forces to help save Storyhouse from potential closure.

The award-winning cultural hub in Chester city centre has proved hugely popular since opening its doors, but was forced to shut at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

With current regulations still prohibiting the reopening of theatres in the UK, Storyhouse has expressed concern that it, like many UK theatres, will struggle to survive without extra support.

This year's Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre had to be entirely postponed until 2021 as lockdown measures have not allowed such productions to be held, although from Saturday the library and cinema facilities will be allowed to reopen.

Now a new campaign, co-ordinated by the influential Chester Business Club, has been launched on three aspects:

  • Creating increased awareness of Storyhouse’s cultural importance for residents and visitors alike
  • Highlighting the significance of the benefits flowing from thriving arts environment
  • Encouraging widespread financial support to ensure the theatre’s future.

Chester Business Club chairman Julie Swinnerton said: "The people of Chester waited and fought long and hard for some 30 years to get a proper theatre worthy of the description, and the last thing anyone wants is to lose it after only a few years of existence!"

City of Chester MP Chris Matheson, Shadow Minister for Culture, Media & Sport, is backing the campaign.

He said: "As MP for the constituency and as an honorary member of Chester Business Club, I wholeheartedly support this initiative to prevent Storyhouse from having to close.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact of the viability of many businesses, not the least of which are theatres and arts centres nationwide.

"We must do everything possible to ensure Storyhouse manages to come through its current difficulties and continue to maintain and build on its growing reputation for excellence.

"I will be raising the issue with the DCMS ministers."

Alex Clifton, Storyhouse’s Artistic Director, said: "We are in a straightforward fight for survival after being forced to postpone the open-air theatre season, which accounts for one fifth of our annual ticketed income and costs £750k to stage.

"Storyhouse will open as soon as any part of the business is able to do so safely.

"But the jeopardy is very real unless something changes. There are theatres across the UK going into hibernation or administration; we are a diverse business so that’s not for us.

"We will open and support our community from the moment we are allowed – but we rely on direct community support for our survival right now.”

Storyhouse will reopen its library and cinema on Saturday, July 4, with an additional screen to be installed, showing films that were billed prior to the lockdown beginning and new releases.

Since Storyhouse launched its New Story campaign, there has been plenty of interest in people becoming new members. To find out more, visit