After obtaining planning permission late 2019, 53two were all set to begin development of a new, fully accessible 150-seater theatre, arts bar and venue in the city centre in March 2020.
Now, having spent nearly two years sourcing funding for the project, 53two has announced it will be opening a ‘theatre bar’ below Manchester Central in Spring 2021.
A 15-year lease has been signed by the charity, who focus on accessibility, diversity and opportunity, to inhabit the stunning Grade II* listed arches beneath the convention centre.
The venue will be the only independent theatre in the city centre that will be fully accessible to wheelchair users and disabled people.
“We can’t wait to get making theatre again and hear the bustle of a busy arts venue, knowing that it is truly accessible for any audience member,” said venue producer Alexandra Maxwell.
“Our ‘theatre bar’ will help the city build back some confidence, and we’ll only open the larger theatre space when we can safely welcome full houses again.”
The theatre will become Manchester’s only venue to produce solely Northern or world premieres, say the team, launching new production companies, championing new writers and ensuring the glass ceiling that can exist in the arts is well and truly smashed.
“I am hugely excited to see 53two’s return to the city centre and announce their upcoming theatre space,” said Marcus Johns, Councillor for Deansgate.
“It’s a massive boost in confidence for our city and our cultural scene. I can’t wait to get back in my seat and enjoying home-grown shows.
“Theatre, arts and culture are crucial ingredients to the success of Manchester city centre and ultimately all of Greater Manchester.
“Now the sector needs our help and support more than ever.”
Despite the terrible time of recent months, 53two say they are excited to be holding a tiny beacon of hope for the residents of Greater Manchester.
“It’s been devastating to watch theatres across the country struggling to survive over what is surely the hardest six months they’ve ever experienced,” said artistic director Simon Naylor.
“Thankfully our doors weren’t open and we were able to use this time to gather support from charities like Backstage Trust, LCVS to ensure we were in the best possible position to open a new venues when the time was right.
“We’ve continued to work with Manchester Central and the city throughout this and we’re delighted to finally announce we’ll be getting started on site in the New Year.”