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Storyhouse calls for urgent Government action as it cancels its open air theatre

Chester Storyhouse is urging the Government to produce guidance now over the reopening of theatres before venues run out of time and close for good.

The call came as the organisation today announced Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre will not take place in Chester this summer.

And the city cultural centre has warned that the cancellation of the popular annual open-air attraction, along with no firm news on when theatres and other entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen – and in what form – has placed the future of Storyhouse itself under threat.

Ticket sales for the open-air theatre-in-the-round, which costs £750,000 to stage, account for a fifth of all Storyhouse’s annual income.

The organisation opened Storyhouse in Hunter Street in May 2017. The venue includes an 800-seat theatre which can be reconfigured into a smaller thrust stage space, a studio theatre, cinema, ‘Kitchen’ bar and café and the city’s library.

It closed its doors in March at the start of lockdown, and chief executive Andrew Bentley said today: “The absence of information has now become critical for open-air and other theatre producers.

“We had plans A, B, C and D to safely open for at least part of the summer. No business however can plan an opening in this vacuum. No business can survive when starved of any vision of the future.

Andrew Bentley (left) with artistic director Alex Clifton

“This now leaves Storyhouse, and Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in a precarious position and is a huge financial blow to us. Over two thirds of the country’s theatres currently expect to be out of business by Christmas and we will join them at some point unless something changes soon.

"We are in a straightforward fight for survival.”

The three Grosvenor Park shows planned for this summer - Pride & Prejudice, Taming of the Shrew and The Jungle Book - will be moved to the same dates in 2021.

Ahead of that, Storyhouse is asking Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre ticket holders to consider turning their tickets for this year into a donation if they are able.

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