Category: News

An exclusive preview of Chester’s new heritage attraction

Today was the opening day at Chester: A Life Story [pictured above], the new heritage attraction in Chester.

I was there early this morning for an exclusive preview of the exhibition, researching an article for The Guardian in the family travel section.

Here’s the recent news item I wrote for the Cheshire Ultimate Guide by way of a preview of the story to come.

A new family visitor attraction has opened in Chester to celebrate the city’s rich social history in time for this year’s Chester Heritage Festival.

Chester: A Life Story puts the emphasis on the often-overlooked stories of ordinary people, using multi-sensory interpretation to highlight the folk who have shaped Cheshire over the past 2,000 years.

Including sections on crime and punishment, and health and medicine, it traces human stories from Roman Chester to the present day via the Middle Ages, aiming to put the story of Chester into a global context.

The heritage attraction is based at St Michael’s Church on Bridge Street, Chester, and managed by Big Heritage, the company that also runs Western Approaches, the wartime secret bunker in Liverpool.

The Chester Heritage Festival runs June 21-29 this year with events around the city.

Chester: A Life Story

Read the full Guardian Travel story here.

Going behind the scenes of the last working mill in Cumbria

A trip to the Lake District this week for a look behind the scenes at Stott Park Bobbin Mill [pictured above] as the English Heritage property gears up to opening for the new season.

It’s a story of industrial heritage, a rural Lakeland backwater that was home to the bobbin mills that served Manchester’s ‘Cottonopolis’.

The Industrial Revolution-era industry has long since disappeared from the Cumbrian fells but Stott Park remains — the last working mill in Cumbria.

Here’s a preview of my article:

The four-acre site provides a striking contrast to the surrounding Lakeland fells, the working mill set amongst woodland and dominated by a towering brick chimney.

Unlike other nearby English Heritage sites, such as Furness Abbey and Brougham Castle, the conservation task at Stott Park is a very different proposition.

Property manager Mick Callaghan says:

“We’re trying to preserve a workplace as it was in its heyday. It’s as if the workers had just gone for a break, leaving their coats on hooks by the door.”

Read the full story in the next issue of English Heritage magazine.

Meeting the Terracotta Warriors on an escorted tour of Liverpool

Just out: my story from Liverpool, where I joined a group tour last summer for Boundless magazine.

It offered a chance to get up close to some 2000-year-old warriors [pictured above] and a cruise through Merseyside’s industrial heritage.

Here’s a flavour of the feature:

Bill is facing down a ninja. The latter may have spent some 2,000 years underground, and it’s built of stone, but it still looks pretty handy with its fists.

Each one of these statues has its own character, whether it’s a facial expression, or the stance,” says Bill, one of the organisers of the Liverpool trip. “They feel alive to me.”

The city has a rich heritage and cultural scene but the highlight for many is, of course, a chance to get up close and personal with the visiting Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum.

The underground army of life-sized warriors was first discovered in 1974 and this blockbuster exhibition has drawing the crowds all summer, featuring many objects never seen before in the UK.

Read more in the March-April issue.

 

Telegraph Chester story — My view

Did you read the Daytripper feature in the Telegraph this weekend [pictured above]?

Don’t bother if not.

I read it and couldn’t help wondering if the writer had actually spoken to anyone who lives in, or even knows Chester at all?

It’s sad to see the same tired, old clichés trotted out like a flagging mare at Chester Races.

Especially when Chester was recently voted one of Britain’s ten favourite cities by Telegraph readers — ahead of Lincoln and Oxford.

There’s a zoo — well, who knew? And there’s a hilarious anecdote about shooting a Welshmen within the city walls. Hold the front page.

It seemed to me that this article completely missed the real story in Chester right now.

There was nothing about the rise of the Chester indies, the high number of independent business owners now bringing new choice and variety to eating, drinking and shopping around the city.

No reference either to the revitalised Chester Market with its Friday-night foodie events.

Nor to the work that local MP Chris Matheson and creative community project GFN Chester have done to launch the Hunger Games promotion this week to champion local eateries.

There was also nothing about Storyhouse and its work to bring the Woman of the World festival to Chester this April. In fact, there was no reference to Storyhouse at all.

Surely anyone walking round the city with their eyes open would find it hard to miss the erstwhile Art Deco cinema converted into our new arts centre-library.

This was, at best, ill informed and lacking in proper research.

I’m tired of writers coming from London, casting a withering eye over the city and clearing off again having added nothing to the conversation.

Especially as I know how much hard work goes on behind the scenes to #makechester.

From individuals ploughing their heart and soul into a local business like Meltdown or Covino (amongst many others) to publications like Tortoise and Amble speaking up for non-chain Chester, this is a radically different place to the city l left in the Nineties to go to university.

I’ve already tweeted the writer with some suggestions for what he should have done on his visit.

#NotOurChester