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Stage Electrics helps RE:NEW Chester’s Storyhouse Theatre and Cinema

Built in 1936 and a Grade II Listed building, the Chester Storyhouse theatre was originally the city’s Odeon cinema. It had been empty and deteriorating since 2007, but the £37 million RE: NEW project, initiated by Cheshire West and Chester Council, set about converting and extending the original building. Stage Electrics was tasked with installing and supplying sound, production lighting, AV equipment, paging and technical infrastructure for the entire project.

Stage Electrics was engaged by Kier Construction to deliver the stage lighting and audio-visual aspect of theatre consultant Charcoal Blue’s design.  As the specialist integrator, Stage Electrics was responsible for delivering the production lighting and AV systems across all three. This included the production lighting equipment, AV infrastructure and Front of House audio systems, in addition to the fully automated, DCI compliant cinema system, Stage Electrics also installed a versatile HD video distribution network throughout the venue. In addition, architectural feature lighting and touchscreen control was specified and installed to the exterior of the striking ‘glass box’ cinema to illuminate the structure. 

“At Stage Electrics, we have a great deal of experience of installations like this, so the supply of products like ETC Sensors for dimming infrastructure and our own bespoke manufactured facility panels, racks and Internally wired bars comes as second nature,” explains Ian Dunne, Stage Electrics' Project Manager for the project. “What was special and challenging with this project was maintaining the flexibility in the technical systems to allow Storyhouse to use each performance space in the variety of formats they intend. In the main theatre, for instance, the fact that the format can change between a proscenium and thrust stage had huge implications for the sound reinforcement and assisted listening system designs.”

In addition to the flexibility of the main theatre, the Stage Electrics installation allows for both audio and video to be distributed virtually anywhere in the 7,000 square metre venue. “We were asked to develop the back of house paging and show relay system design to extend across the entirety of the venue, with the additional functionality of local background music inputs,” Ian recalls.

 “It’s been a great project to be involved in,” Ian adds. “The fact that half of the project was a new build theatre and the other half was a refurbishment of a Grade II listed building has been really interesting. The attention to detail maintained by everyone involved in the project and the blend of old and new has created a breath-taking venue.”

“We set out to create an exemplar project, and I am immensely proud of what we have all achieved,” says Graham Lister, Project Director for Storyhouse. “Stage Electrics has played a crucial role in developing a highly sophisticated technical infrastructure that more than meets the client’s challenging brief. They were able to draw on their experience and expertise to resolve technical issues that arose during the build programme, including designing new technical solutions when faced with unexpected changes to the original design. I am delighted with the result and I look forward to working with the team in the future.”

The success of the project has recently been underlined by its nomination for Preservation and Rejuvenation Award in North West Regional Construction Awards.

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