STORIES take many forms.

You can dive into a book, escape into an adventure on the silver screen or enjoy a tall tale live on stage.

The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination – and at Storyhouse in Chester the team make it their business to inspire the storytellers of tomorrow.

The all-in-one arts centre, formerly a 1930s Odeon, opened around six months ago and makes an instant impression the first time you see it.

Weekend was invited to spend the day at the £37million venue to get a sense of what is on offer.

It is quite a significant development for Chester and the north west because Storyhouse has brought a theatre back to the city for the first time in a decade.

During our visit the venue was just finishing its run of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven – a world premiere no less – at the auditorium where the seating forms a semi-circle around the stage.

Plush but comfortable, the seating arrangement – seen elsewhere at the likes of the Royal Exchange in Manchester – makes you feel closer to the action.

And you can see how much investment, as well as care and attention, has been put in to get the stage and atmosphere just right.

The auditorium can also be adapted into either an 800-seat or 500-seat theatre depending on the show for a year-round programme of entertainment which has already seen the likes of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers and Monty Python’s Spamalot on stage.

If Secret Seven is anything to go by, the team seem to take great pride in their productions with the likes of a special ‘Cherrydale’ newspaper produced to create a buzz for the show.

That is just the start because Storyhouse also features a a 150-seat studio theatre for smaller or community productions and a 100-seat boutique cinema.

At the cinema you can see the latest blockbusters like The Last Jedi but there is also a regular programme of family films from classics and favourites to recent releases.

‘When you say ‘arts centre’ some people conjure up an image in their head of something haughty and pretentious but Storyhouse is anything but’

Talking of families, parents with young kids are made very welcome at the venue. When you say ‘arts centre’ some people conjure up an image in their head of something haughty and pretentious but Storyhouse is anything but.

During the run of Secret Seven, a recreation of Peter and the gang’s HQ shed sat by the entrance for families to explore and have photo ops.

There are also countless activities for families and youngsters as well as an extensive children’s library.

Think HOME in Manchester meets Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On top of that Storyhouse has also become Chester’s library after working with the government’s libraries task force to improve access to books in the city.

And it has worked – 3,000 new members have signed up to the library since the building opened in May and more than 141,000 books have been loaned.

Books have even been integrated into the whole experience. Where do you think you can find the books on food? Yep, you guessed it – along one of the walls of shelves in the dining area.

But there are bookshelves all over the venue and to see visitors taking a seat and flicking through novels and texts gives the centre a great sense of warmth and community.

We also very much enjoyed Storyhouse’s restaurant.

The Kitchen’s light dishes are inspired by the Middle East flavours of the Levant and cater for everyone from vegans to meat eaters.

I went for the delicious squash and halloumi with hummus and pitta and my wife Sarah had roasted aubergine rolls with walnuts and ginger.

If you think it all sounds a little too refined for all the family do not worry – there is a kids’ menu (which doubles as a colouring page) and the big communal tables which you share with others make it feel very welcoming.

The staff also helped us pick something out for my son Ethan, who has allergies. A great example of what cultural hubs can and should be like, Storyhouse is a real asset to the north west. It will be interesting to watch the venue’s own story continue to unfold.

  • For more information about Storyhouse, what's on and planning a visit, go to