“You know when you mash up carrots and put them in lasagne and then children don’t know they are eating vegetables?”
Dean Paton, the brainchild behind Chester’s newest visitor attraction, obviously knows his onions. He knows that most humans just want to live the best life they can, to laugh, to share, to play, to reflect and perhaps learn something new in the process.
Chester: A Life Story opens at St Michael’s Church, on the corner of Bridge Street and Pepper Street, on March 30 and at the very least, that laughter should be heard in the neighbouring Jaunty Goat coffee shop, the historic Falcon pub or Mad Hatters tearooms.
Expect to find yourself in Life Story – not perhaps in the Gap Year sense – but in the fact that this museum, experience, attraction, call it what you will, is centred around real people who live in Chester, work in Chester, have died in Chester, those for whom Chester was the springboard to a life elsewhere or those who have found a home in the city by design or serendipity.
Obsessed with the past and curious about the future, Dean very much lives in the present here in Chester but is originally from Birkenhead. He studied archaeology at the universities of Chester and Oxford before founding Big Heritage, the community interest company that strives to connect people with the past. Remember when the spooky Plague Doctor haunted the streets of Chester by night? Dean knows him. Recall when thousands of people descended on Chester city centre looking for a rare Pokemon? Dean found it first. He has organised an archaeological dig in Blacon, a heritage event looking at the city’s LGBT history and reopened a secret Second World War bunker in Liverpool.
Life Story has evolved out of Dean’s infectious interest in everything around him. It started with Roman medicine, led to a medieval plague doctor and evolved into 21st-century health and wellbeing.
As soon as you go through the doors of the church it is all hands on deck. You might take a selfie for the Rogue’s Gallery while the kids surreptitiously open a display case and TOUCH the artefacts. Grandpa can contemplate the Scold’s Bridle, which originated in Chester and was used ‘to curb women’s tongues that talk too idle’. Grandma might study the 3D dreams of Chester children’s ideal home. Who will help who create Chester Castle on a one-handed Etch a Sketch or manipulate the pulleys to get through a maze? Is that a pianola I hear?
One thing is for certain. Life Story, like all of our lives, will change. What starts as a display about family meals will focus next on what we like to wear. Real people talking about love and relationships might become a potted history of a local football team.
And you might find you really like carrots.
Find out more about the attraction and plan your visit here.