So wonderful to see my old city of Chester getting some international coverage last week, with a visit by the lovely Meghan Markle and some old lady (OK, OK, I know it was The Queen!!) 😀
As part of their itinerary, they dropped into Storyhouse in Northgate Street, which in the olden days was the Odeon Cinema, one of my favourite haunts when I lived there. Sadly the Odeon closed years ago.
After standing disused for a while, this 1930s art deco listed building has been wonderfully converted into a library, meeting space, theatre venue and small cinema. Megan and The Queen toured the building before unveiling a plaque to officially open it, and watched a performance by local schoolchildren.
You can find out more about their visit from my old newspaper the Chester Chronicle (I was a journalist there in another life).
To me, the Royal Visit demonstrates the changing face of Chester City Centre. I once wrote a film script in which the manager of the Odeon was visited by Cupid himself (a bungling version of Cupid anyway) to set right his disastrous love life. The Odeon no longer exists.
Other scripts and stories I’ve written over the years also reference venues and locations in Chester that either don’t exist anymore or have drastically changed since the days I knew them.
The biggest change has happened to the police and where they work in the city.
My first two novels starring my detective character DC Dominic Strider referenced the former Cheshire Police HQ in Nuns Road, opposite the magistrates’ court.
This seven-storey building was abandoned by the police a decade or so ago – they moved to a new HQ in Winsford. In recompense for leaving Chester, the police opened a new Chester, Ellesmere Port & Neston divisional police station on the Blacon council estate in Chester, and opened a tiny police office in Chester Town Hall.
So in my first two novels – No More Lonely Nights, and Long & Winding Road (both available in paperback and on Kindle) – I have Strider working in the old police HQ in Nuns Road.
By the time I rebooted the character and started writing the 3rd (completed) and 4th (half-completed) novels, the old HQ had long gone. What to do? So I decided to simply ignore what had happened to the old HQ, and just gave Strider an office in the Town Hall police base instead.
On the one hand, this is annoying and ruins any sense of chronology in my books. On the other hand, the ever-changing city centre landscape makes an author like me think on my feet, allowing me to change and adapt my own work so the Chester in my 3rd and 4th books – and beyond – represent Chester just as it is today.
That is the modern, constantly-evolving Chester that Meghan and The Queen enjoyed visiting so much last week.