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Art & Culture

A Theatre Will Open In The Railway Arches Beneath Manchester Central

By Laura O'Neill October 11, 2019

53two has submitted plans to open a new venue in Manchester’s Watson Street.

Manchester theatre 53two will be reborn in the railway arches beneath Manchester Central.

Accessible theatre provider, 53two, has had its planning application validated by Manchester City Council to convert two historical arches beneath Manchester Central into a theatre and events space. A huge step which owners say will help ‘breathe life’ into their new arts venue, allowing them to continue to create affordable, accessible and ground-breaking theatre in the heart of the City.

53two originally set up home just 100 yards from this proposed new venue, bringing new writing from local writers and providing an accessible theatre space with affordable ticket prices to the city, plugging the gap between smaller fringe theatre and the larger theatres of Greater Manchester.

The 6000sq ft theatre and bar will be situated in grade-two* listed arches on Watson Street, with a 150 seated and 350 standing capacity, allowing them to continue to house a vast array of events,
performances and exhibitions from theatre, to live music, to exhibitions and even ‘urban weddings’.

A spokesman for 53two said the theatre provider, with help from Up North Architects and a team of consultants, is currently in consultation and, if planning approval is secured, work will begin in November 2019.

The spokesman said the venue aims to open its doors in the spring of 2020 and look forward to bringing back to Manchester the critically acclaimed JB Shorts & Monologue slam, as well as launching new writing programmes, providing a ‘hub’ for creatives to meet and work and a ‘members bar’ for post-show drinks for performers working in the surrounding venues.

Simon Naylor 53two Artistic Director said:

“We are beyond excited at taking this massive step towards our goal. Our theatre friends from the old venue provided us with a Kickstarter of £11,000 without which, we would have been unable to even take the first steps.

“Since then, we’ve managed to raise the required capital from various places, in particular, our Theatre Angel Sharon Colpman, and we’re now incredibly close to opening the doors to 53two theatre once again.

“We can’t wait to become a part of the new Watson Street community that is set to bring a new focus on the arts and nightlife to a previously unused stretch beneath the iconic Manchester Central.”

In recent weeks 53two has announced Greater Manchester legends Tony Walsh, Shobna Gulati and Honorary Manc Lesley Nicol as their patrons, while also welcoming Trevor Macfarlane (FRSA) to their panel of trustees alongside Jane Anderson, Lawrence Evans and Tamsin Stanley.

Alexandra Maxwell 53two Theatre Manager:

“We work tirelessly, not for any self-entitlement, but because of the love and passion we have for producing work, supporting new writing, nurturing young and emerging artists and offering an accessible space for artists to be able to show off their hard work.

“Smaller venues are the lifeblood to the industry and without them, artists wouldn’t have the platform they need to get their work out there to be seen”

The proposed venue is fully accessible, both for audience members and for artists with accessible toilets throughout, lowered bar and dressing room tables and ramped access at street level, at a time when accessible spaces in Manchester are at an alarmingly low level.

Cherylee Houston, Actor (Coronation Street) and Triple C Creative Lead said:

“I’m so excited about how 53two has put access at the front of their creative mind in the planning of its new venue.  They’ve ensured that they will create a space that is accessible to everyone, performers and audience alike.

“They’re a leader in their thinking, this is so exciting to witness a venue want to create a space which has access at the heart of its planning. This is both in the physical space and their attitudes to access.”

53two has vowed to keep their friends updated with further news as and when they can, but, in the meantime, people can rest assured that their time creating theatre is far from over with a new, improved archway just around the corner.


Also published on Medium.