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What did we do before Storyhouse? I recently found myself at the venue three days in a row, attending Chester Literature Festival events. Having missed most of the week due to work, I managed to squeeze a couple of shows in last minute over the final weekend.

First up, ‘Hurrah for Gin’. Booked because it was a blog about gin, surely? No, it’s a mummy blogger (Katie Kirby) who writes candidly and lightheartedly about the challenges of raising a family and how gin helps – sort of. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a few friends were going and tickets were only £12.50 and included a G&T. On a Friday night. Sold.

We get there early for the aforementioned free drink and a chat, in the cool and cosy coffee area. It’s the first time I’ve hung about before a performance and I love the atmosphere. For such a big open space, it’s busy and buzzy, with that lovely hint of pre-show anticipation. The gin’s good too, I snag the last  – they’d really wanted the gin. Luckily, they’re also pleased to have the finished bottle as they’re collecting them (wedding decorations? Bookends?). Happy to have helped!

We’re so relaxed and engrossed in our conversation that it’s tough to get up and move to theatre, but we trail after everyone as the bar empties and head up the stairs. It’s a little confusing as the numbers on the walls and doors don’t seem to clearly match to anything on our tickets (or maybe that’s just the effect of the first gin?) We seek out directions to get to the right level and side, and get there eventually via the free G&T provided by Sipsmith. I think they’ve missed a marketing trick or two as it’s served in plastic cups (maybe there’s rules about glass in the theatre?) but no signage or offers, or call-to-action to buy their gin (Sipsmith please note I am available for marketing consulting if you need a hand! Shameless self-promotion over.)

Our seats are in the circle upstairs with a good view of the stage, which has two quirky velvety armchairs. We finally know how the format is going to go when Louise Minchin walks in (we can’t help noting that her shoes are awesome and perfectly colour-match the chairs). Katie Kirby follows, Louise introduces her and the evening begins. It comes over as a casual chat between two people with a common interest – maybe that’s the skill of a great interviewer.

Katie seems a touch nervous and regularly hugs and rubs her knees at first, but quickly gets in to her stride, talking about her family and the ups and downs of coping with two children. Her stories are funny and honest. She has an irreverent take on motherhood and a firm stance against the idea of the ‘perfect’ mother. She occasionally backtracks, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said that!’, and not-so-occasionally swears. She’s feisty, genuine, and refreshing. There are lots of big laugh moments, even for those of us with no children. Katie gamely answers questions from the audience. I love it when her answer to ‘What’s your favourite gin?’ is ‘Aldi do a good one,’ before covering her tracks and endorsing Sipsmith. The audience giggle and love her even more. Hurrah for Katie.

She takes the time to sign books and chat with everyone even though the queue is long. A great buy for anyone with (or about to have) kids – stocking filler alert. I’ve a feeling it’ll be more helpful than the variety of parenting books that instruct you on how you should do everything. Katie’s the kind of friend mums everywhere would  love to have in their circle, sharing stories about their feral kids and a few cheeky gins along the way.

We leave feeling buoyant from a great night. Here’s hoping there’s more like this to come from Storyhouse.

‘Hurrah for Gin: a book for perfectly imperfect parents’ is available in hardback form from Amazon, currently at £9.09, and £4.99 for Kindle.