Chester communities are being invited to plunge deep into an enchanted forest this autumn and cocoon themselves in creativity in The Nest.
Destination Chester, a network of the city’s tourism partners, has taken over the site of the former PROCook shop at 22 Bridge Street and immersive design artist Rachel Shore is transforming it into a magical space where imaginations can run free.
The Nest will be open for five weeks from 23 October and will host a range of creative and reflective events and activities, starting this half-term, for people of all ages to take part in and enjoy.
Some will be free, and others ticketed, but all will be inexpensive.
The Nest is the first part of Chester, Designed by Nature, a new six-month community arts project launched by Destination Chester, with support from the European Regional Development Fund.
The project aims to embrace and explore the natural world that surrounds us through a programme of art, activities, performance, storytelling and amazing large-scale sculptural installations which will appear across the city.
Storyhouse and Cheshire-based outdoor arts specialists Wild Rumpus, masterminds of the Just So festival and The Lanterns at Chester Zoo have collaborated to bring the programme of events and installations to life, with Wild Rumpus designer Rachel Shore creating the magical ‘Nest’ environment.
Visitors will be greeted by an avenue of trees which will guide them through an atmospheric dark forest with glimpses of nesting woodland animals and treasures among the trunks.
The autumnal-hued wonderland includes a performance space, while a willow arch leads to a craft area. And beyond that is The Nest itself – a cosy, warm and inviting dome filled with floor cushions and tree stump stools where you can slow down, relax and reflect.
The packed programme begins on Saturday, 23 October with the chance to Choose Your Own AdvenTUNE! Join award-winning singer-songwriter and children’s author Ashley Fayth on an hour-long energetic, interactive and super-silly singalong adventure.
The day then continues with two brilliant Audio Plays – Minibeasts and Imagination Games – written by Simon James and starring Chester schoolchildren.
Three Guided Meditation for Children sessions take place at The Nest on Sunday, 24 October. Chester-based meditation teacher Chloë, from Girl Meditates, will gently guide participants through a 30-minute meditation to decompress the body and help relax the mind and soul.
The Worry Wizard visits The Nest on Monday, 25 October to share its short animation Together Not Alone and invite people to explore a creative toolkit which can help adults navigate conversations about grief and loss with their child.
Little ones can enjoy some Diddi Drama on Tuesday, 26 October. The 40-minute sessions are aimed at youngsters aged 18 months to five-years-old and combine role-play, movement and music to fire the imagination. Meet Henry the Hedgehog and Bernie the Bear as they prepare to hibernate for winter.
Then on Wednesday, 27 October, the irrepressible Gav Cross takes over The Nest for a series of storytelling sessions From Deeper in the Forest. Youngsters aged six and up can accompany him on a journey where old classics are given a new twist.
Chester Zoo comes to The Nest on Thursday, 28 October, inviting people to come and learn about animals and their habitats – and create an animal home or nest to take away with them.
Join artist Clare Owens for a free, drop-in Autumn Arts Workshop on Friday, 29 October where you will get the chance to create art inspired by the changing colours of autumn leaves. The session runs from 11am to 2pm.
Alternatively, young people aged 14 to 25 are invited to take a walk with Chester photographer Sam Ryley followed by a Photography Workshop where they can learn about autumn light and embracing the changing seasons.
Then on Saturday, 30 October why not Build a Nest at The Nest? Children aged seven and over can get creative making their own mini nest houses under the expert eye of artist Neuza Morais.
And on Sunday, 31 October, artist Ffion Pritchard will lead a Shadow Puppet Workshop where youngsters can design their own autumnal shadow puppet and learn how to operate and film it inspired by the theme of hibernation.
Jen McAndrew, Project manager, Destination Chester, says: “We’re hugely excited to be able to present Designed by Nature, which has been made possible by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund.
“This is a project of collaboration; we’re working with a fantastic range of city centre partners, artists and creatives to bring something very special to Chester, and The Nest, designed by Rachel Shore, is the first part of that project.
“It’s a special space where all generations can come together, enjoy connecting with nature and creativity, and consider the role we have to play in the wider world around us.”
Explore and book events at The Nest here.
Some events have restricted numbers of places available.
Funding to provide the services in this project is provided by the Welcome Back Fund (WBF). WBF is managed by Her Majesty’s Government and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The project is receiving more than £300,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.