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Manchester's 53two to close

Published: 13 April 2019

One of Manchester's newest and most popular fringe venues, 53two, is to close next month to make way for developers—but an alternative location is soon to be announced.

The venue took the Northern Soul Award for Small Theatre of the Year in 2018 and has become the new home of Manchester new writing institution JB Shorts since it moved out of the basement of its namesake venue, the Joshua Brooks pub, which has been packing out the space under the old railway bridge twice a year since 2016. As well as hosting many different kinds of events, 53two has recently produced shows, such as The Glasshouse and The Stretch.

ASK Real Estate, the owners of the tunnels housing the theatre who provided them to Simon Naylor with a generous kick-starter loan, will take back the venue when it closes on 4 May until they commence work on the site. However they have already been offered a new home, although they have not yet announced its location.

53two Artistic Director Simon Naylor said, "unfortunately we’re unable to release where this potential new site is until planning is submitted later this month but it’s very exciting and we can’t thank our ‘Knight’s in Shining Armour’ enough. However, to achieve our goals of continuing charity work and supporting the grass-roots arts, we need, as always, support. This support will of course involve any manual work that can be donated but, primarily, we’re looking to raise a substantial amount of money to really plant our flag in the ground and continue to support others in a more permanent theatre and arts hub."

As well as money and labour, they have asked for written testimonials to help with their planning and fundraising campaign and received 150 submissions in less than two weeks. Coronation Street actor Cherylee Houston said that the theatre has made "a massive cultural shift in the Manchester Fringe scene," praising them for hosting the Disabled Artists Networking Community for free and also the Manchester Mental Health Choir, Bee Vocal.

Poet Tony Walsh said he was "saddened" to hear of the venue's closure, saying, "53Two has quickly become a vital component in the arts ecology and economy of Manchester." He added, "it is in such venues that the skills are gained, the ideas are developed and the relationships are built that makes Manchester the world renowned centre for the arts that we must remain."

Naylor added, "we’re looking for help from everyone. Whether you can donate £5 or £10,000, whether you’re a passionate individual or a massive company, we need your support to allow 53two to continue to support the North West. We’re even asking tradesmen to donate their time, if they can do—plumber? Fancy having a block of toilets named after your company? You can! If you can’t donate, and we know that some people can’t, then do please spread the word—getting this campaign ‘out there’ is as valuable as a donation."

For more information, contact Simon Naylor at simon@53two.com or see the donation page on the 53two web site.

David Chadderton