Another exciting diversion in a rather dull work-filled month is the opening of Storyhouse, Chester's new theatre. We've been waiting for this: it's disgraceful that a city the size of Chester with a large number of tourists has been without a proper theatre for over 10 years. But eventually a plan was agreed to transform the former Odeon cinema into this new space which would house not just a theatre, but also a cinema and the town centre library.
It was worth waiting for because it is an absolutely fabulous place, The building has been restored and extended with a central area, the Kitchen, a welcoming book-lined café, which doubles as a performing space. The library is over three floors and is not locked away in a separate section but in the shared space. This means it is much more accessible as you can borrow and return books on Sundays or in the evenings. It's already improved library usage - apparently hundreds of new library cards were issued in the first week it opened. There are private spaces in the library too - reading rooms with lovely old armchairs. I'm impressed with the décor - the furniture has been chosen to reflect the Art Deco style of the building so instead of standard dull municipal library furniture there are lots of old unmatched chairs and quirky touches like a bowler-hat lamp and this peacock statue. It has proved very popular with kids from school to revise in and I don't think many of them ever visited the old library.
The theatre itself has been designed so that it can be transformed from an 800 seat proscenium (the Touring Stage) to a 500 seat thrust (the Storyhouse stage). The opening season features the local company whose artistic director is Alex Clifton. They have been successfully staging open air productions in the park for years now. We went to see the first production 'The Beggar's Opera' on the 13th May, a couple of days after the opened, and enjoyed it very much. Inventive, cleverly written with lots of local references, and full of music and entertaining performances. I also went along to some the events at the Women of the World festival which was held there a few weekends ago.. And later in the year we can book to see shows like 'Footloose' and 'Blood Brothers' at a much more reasonable price than in Liverpool or Manchester. I've already visited many times and this week I'm planning to see 'The Secret Scripture' in the cinema. And all of this is just a 10 minute walk from our front door. I am very happy about this.
This morning as I write this the news again is grim, just weeks after the horror of Manchester at the MEN. Having been at concerts there myself with Kate when she was 10 or 11, it seemed very close to home. Living in the UK now, I feel a bit like we did in Northern when I was growing up in the 1970s and car bombs and shootings were a regular occurrence. We got on with things but were on edge as every week or so there was news of more devastation and death. Just horrible - I was shocked to see armed police on the streets in Chester on the Races weekend after the Manchester attack. I've never seen that before.
So on we go, getting out and making the most of the life we have and not thinking too much about what might happen next.