53Two about to start work on its permanent home

Artist's impression of the finished 53Two centre. Pic: 53Two

Writer:

Paul Genty

31 Dec 2020

Work delayed over nine months by Nightingale hospital operations

After a recently-nomadic existence, Manchester’s theatre arts centre 53Two is at last about to start work on its hopefully permanent home in Watson Street, Manchester.

The theatre - home of artist support group Manchester Actors’ Platform and fringe festival J B Shorts - has waited months for work on its new venue to begin.

Permission was granted late in 2019 and construction was supposed to begin in March 2020, just as the Covid-19 threat hit news dominance. Work stopped as the grade II-listed site, in arches under conference centre and former railway station Manchester Central, was part of the Manchester Nightingale hospital area and needed for storage.

The 53Two charity has leased the venue for 15 years and hopes to turn it into an accessible 150-seat theatre, arts bar and hire venue. Work is expected to start early in January and it is hoped the bar area might be able to open within the next four months, though the theatre will remain closed until social distancing measures are removed.

The theatre started life in the former showrooms of city luxury car dealer Bauer Millett in Albion Street, Manchester in 2016, but had to vacate the building in May 2019 when redevelopment was planned.

The company had a new venue in mind even then – a two-minute walk away around the corner in Watson Street – but delayed the announcement until its plans had been approved.

Artistic director Simon Naylor later revealed a 150-seat theatre with another 350 as standing capacity. 

The building will play host to a large range of arts and other events such as exhibitions, live music, writing programmes and even weddings.

The charity is currently housed in Old Colony House in South King Street, Manchester, where it hires out rooms of varying sizes for arts, theatre and other purposes.