Spanning two Grade II* listed arches, 53two will offer a vast array of performing and visual arts
On launching 53two in the old Bauer Miller site back in 2016, founder Simon Naylor called it ‘Manchester’s newest, biggest and most versatile arts venue’. Having beat over 20 competitors to win a place-making initiative by owners Ask Real Estate, he was taking full advantage.
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Ambition paid off. 53two grew to become one of the city’s most cherished theatres; renowned for its support of local writers, quality shows at affordable prices and plugging the gap between smaller fringe venues and the larger theatres of Greater Manchester. But all good things come to an end and 53two ultimately had to make way for development, closing in April this year.
It wasn’t all gloom, however, as the 53two team already had a new home in mind. Now, following an intensive period of fundraising, they’ve announced a new venue…just 100 yards down the road.
The new site spans two Grade II* listed arches, much like the charity’s former home, and will join newly-opened Three Little Words on Watson Street. Comprising a 6000sq ft theatre and bar, with a 150 seated and 350 standing capacity, it’ll host a vast array of events: from exhibitions to theatre, live music to writing programmes and even ‘urban weddings’- plus, of course, 53two staples like the acclaimed JB Shorts & Monologue Slam.
With support from Up North Architects and a team of consultants, 53two is currently in consultation and hopes to begin work in November subject to planning approval. It is hoped the (fully accessible) venue will open in spring 2020.
53two artistic director Simon Naylor 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’d 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.”
It’s not the only exciting development for 53two, with a host of new patrons including Tony Walsh, Shobna Gulati and Honorary Manc Lesley Nicol. Trevor Macfarlane (FRSA), meanwhile, has joined the trustee panel alongside Jane Anderson, Lawrence Evans and Tamsin Stanley.
Naylor added: “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.”