I was once stopped in the street at about 8 at night, in the centre of Chester by a clearly lost and confused tourist. ” ‘scuse me… where is everything?” they asked. Good point we thought, looking at what looked like a city with the shutters down. We directed them to a few bars and restaurants…
This lack of apparent stuff to do in the evening in Chester was a recurring theme on BBC Radio Merseyside’s feature on Chester yesterday. The thing is, I found and I hear it all the time, that once you know where to look there is actually loads going on here. Yes we all know how ridiculous it is that we now lack a city Theatre, cinema and the council’s permanent art gallery and museum is tiny. It’s great the Theatre and cinema screen are stepping nearer to reality, and I think even better than that is the self-started arts and cultural offerings from local groups, businesses and organisations.
What I think we need, and hopefully the new theatre will be a move towards this, is some central focal points that visitors will know to look out for, and residents can see as our base-line stuff. Places that not only offer arts and culture and entertainment beyond good food, drink and music, but places where we can meet-up and hang around and enjoy just being in the buzz of creativity. Then the brilliant smaller, grassroots groups and organisations would be offering the niche and the weird and wonderful that only really small, self-made groups are genuinely good at – in my opinion.
Another reason I think the city centre feels very empty and quiet at night is due to our rows. Many bars and restaurants are tucked away and are quite invisible from street level at night. If more could be done to give each row individuality, just generally more pleasant to explore and more visible I think visitors would seek them out. You only have to see how pretty and enticing Godstall lane looks from street level to imagine how other sections of the rows could be made more special.
Finally I think the marketing of Chester as a city neglects the night-time offering, beyond evening tours. From my perspective Chester is represented as a city of history and shopping, which I think is very sadly selling us short.
So heres hoping the Theatre, and (being very optimistic) the one-city plan creates some more cultural focus in the evening, and that our smaller groups and independents get more support from those promoting Chester, and perhaps then we won’t be seen as a cultural desert? What are your thoughts?