The park itself is a living, breathing Green Flag-awarded natural space – and Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is striving to be just as green. Sustainability is at the heart of our ethos and plans going forward, both at Storyhouse and when it comes to the summer season outdoors. And 2022 is pivotal in creating a long-term policy which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of both Storyhouse and all our activities including the annual open-air theatre, and also Moonlight Flicks.
Head of operations Oliver Hill explains: “This year there’s a real drive to understand what our carbon footprint is, so that alongside our business plan we can create a three-year plan which makes steps to reduce our carbon use to something which is sustainable.” Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre already has a host of environmentally friendly policies in place.
The theatre structure itself is reused every year, while the set will be grown (and then transplanted) rather than built again this summer, and many of the props and costumes are recycled or made of recycled or sustainable materials. The popular on-site pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven and drinks are served in compostable containers. Single use plastic is banned. All waste from the site is sorted and recycled while audience members are also encouraged to take their rubbish home with them to either recycle or compost there.
Oliver says: “We’ve been engaging with the Carbon Trust and looking at some partnerships with local students in Chester but also with Sheffield Hallam University to help us look at how we set up an event, where we’re using carbon and how we can potentially reduce that.
“We’re looking at each and every thing that we do, from the set we use and how we transport materials to the park to how we store it, what we set up there, what we power and how we cook.”
This season, the action will be illuminated by LED lights which use only a fraction of the power of normal stage lighting. In future seasons, the idea of powering the site through solar panels is also being explored. We’re also looking at investing in an electric van to carry items from Storyhouse on Hunter Street to the park and we’re considering ways to reduce the carbon footprint of transporting the theatre structure itself from storage at Ellesmere Port to Chester and back. And the 30,000 theatregoers who attend each season are also being encouraged to consider greener travel options to get to and from the park.
Much of what happens in Grosvenor Park is also being replicated at Storyhouse itself where the building already has solar panels on its roof which generate some of the electricity used at the venue. Ways of collecting and reusing rainwater are being investigated, while inside Storyhouse the main areas of the building are lit with LED lighting.
And we’re also committed to sustainability in the food and drink which is served on site at our restaurant The Kitchen. Much of which is sourced from the immediate area and seasonal produce where possible. Honey comes from the Storyhouse bees, milk is direct from a farm at nearby Peckforton, and meat is sourced from a local butcher at Chester market. “We’re also part of the Chester Zoo and wider Chester city sustainable palm oil campaign,” says Oliver. “And I think that is a model for how we can look at the building more widely. “What the sustainable palm oil challenge has done well is create a set of guidelines for something that means you’re then able to effect change with suppliers.
“In a small way we’re looking at how we can do that across the business, whether that’s the theatre or chemical supplies or whatever. For instance this newspaper that you are reading is on recycled stock and was printed in Merseyside. If we’re really clear with our principles and ambitions, and red lines, then that makes decisions very easy.”