Written evidence submitted by Storyhouse



Written evidence to the DMCS inquiry on the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors


This short submission addresses opening plans for UK art centres incorporating smaller theatres, the futures of which we believe are being placed in doubt by an absence of guidance and a lack of confidence.


Our Organisation


Storyhouse is a charity, a combined arts and theatre producer that operates out of its venue in Chester. The £37m centre was opened in May 2017, officially commemorated a year later by a visit from HM The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex. It is one of the most visited cultural centres in the UK with over 1m customer visits per year. 


Inside the building we operate a two-form theatre, a cinema, a community hub, a restaurant and the city’s public library, the latter with the longest opening hours in UK. The unique model has been of much interest to the government’s library taskforce as a model for future similar developments.


Over 2,000 participation sessions per year are aimed at marginalised local communities.  We run our own MA education course alongside a large slew of education and other programmes for young people. We sold 254k tickets last year and are a busy theatre producer. Storyhouse is currently UK Theatre’s “Most Welcoming UK Theatre” and in 2018 was the overall winner in the Guardian’s Public Service Awards. 


Storyhouse operates on a concentrated freelance model with very low standing production overheads.  It sells 94% of tickets online and has no box office, reception desks, stage door indeed many of the trappings of traditional theatre infrastructure are re-imagined.  We sustain 215 fte jobs and provide an estimated £23.5m economic value to our extended city community. We are one of 507 UK charities running theatres.


Storyhouse has continued with two thirds of its participation sessions since lockdown, 350 of these delivered online since March 16th.


What has been the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector?


Operators of theatres with large proportions of earned income (ours is 76% of £6.49m) and those with smaller reserves also low levels of ACE funding (3%) are particularly hard hit because they face large standing overheads and no prospect of any income.





How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?





What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with Covid-19?