The Storyhouse, Chester, England – Once upon a time there lived a library…

Written by Phil Segal

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Once upon a time in a land far, far away… Chester, North West England, to be precise – there lived a library

The history of The Storyhouse reads like something of a fairytale in itself; a formerly unremarkable repository that had seen better days, housed in a unexceptional municipal building all of a sudden utterly transmogrified into a bustling cultural hub infused with creativity, energy, life and fun! A place full of art, performance and wonder but where, magically-enough, the library collection itself – rather than finding itself lost in all of the excitement – now permeates  every nook, corridor and corner. The cookbook section covers the restaurant walls, old card catalogue cabinets repurposed as tables sit in the study areas and quotes from poet Lemn Sissay are quite literally writ large on the walls in playful, bold typefaces.

Ok, ok – so I’ll try to stop waxing lyrical… but what works so well about the Storyhouse is that (unlike so many other so called ‘shared-use libraries’) the library itself feels far from bolted on. As explained in the this video, the library is completely integral to the building:

It’s a multi-award-winning, multi-purpose, multi-layered library converted from a 1930s Odeon Art Deco building and partly funded by the Arts Council, England. It includes an 800-seat auditorium, story-telling room, 150-seat studio theatre, restaurant, archive/local history area, two bars and a 100-seat independent cinema. 

It gets noisy and busy, of course, given all the many things happening within the building. Cosy and secluded nooks can be found, though – for instance within the more traditional-looking fiction section on the second floor. Having the books so spread out can also make tracking items down a bit of a challenge but helpful staff are on hand. It’s a beautiful, friendly and inspiring space – one which I’ll look forward to returning too someday and a building of which local residents can be truly proud.

It’s well worth having an explore around the city walls whilst in Chester; much of what remains of these can be walked upon giving a unique perspective on the city. Chester boasts Roman remains, a castle rebuilt by Henry III and the ornate Eastgate Clock which was completed in 1899.

  1. Visit Cheshire (2019) Chester, Cheshire and Beyond: Storyhouse (Online) Available at: [Accessed 29.7.19]
  2. StoryhouseLive (2017) Storyhouse Library, uploaded 18 Oct 2017 [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29.7.19]


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