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Help save Manchester’s one of a kind theatre bar 53two: owners launch ‘Giz a Quid’ campaign to tackle rising bills

The owners of 53two, a popular theatre bar located in the Grade II-listed tunnels beneath Manchester Central, have issued an appeal to its customers to help keep it afloat as it continues to tackle rising bills.

Creative Director Simon Naylor has urged people to share their cause on social media, visit the venue and donate one pound a week to help them through tough times.

He said the current climate has made it increasingly difficult to run the venue and customer support is vital to “keeping us alive as an integral arts hub”.

Simon and venue manager Alex Maxwell have launched a new scheme where patrons can support the venue.

We sat down with Simon to get the full scale of the problem.

He said:  “Everyone is struggling, as we know. The whole economic climate is unstable, scary and when you’ve got bricks and mortar, these problems are amplified.

“Our Business Rates Discretionary relief has been removed, our energy bills (like everyone’s have!) have sky-rocketed, and we missed out on an Arts Council Grant and a GMCA grant to help us grow, both with the installation of a Changing Places toilet and to support staffing costs for the next few years.

“Of course, lots of theatres and venues missed out – we only have to look at what’s happened in Oldham to witness the fragility of the arts right now. We opened two years ago, in the middle of the pandemic. Our first Christmas was a write-off and we went into the 2022 not knowing if we’d come back. We did, and since, consumer confidence has been rising but, it still feels like we’ve not had a full year of trading ’normally’ and it’s been a struggle to pull audiences in.

“More staff are needed to increase our outreach and marketing but for that, you guessed it, we need the finances to do this.”

To put things into perspective, over the last year, 53two’s energy bills have increased by over 100%.

They have launched an action plan which they are hoping will help boost the revenue, and encourage people to come down and see a show.

This includes a performance of the poem ‘These Bricks, They Speak’ written and performed at 52Two by Tony Walsh last week.

Tony is a patron and dear friend of the arches.

He has been a stalwart through the tough times and is “always on hand to help us out if and when we need it”, said Simon.

“Just after Christmas he got in touch to say he’d written a poem, for us!

“He knew we were going to ask Manchester for help, He knew we had ‘Bricks; Six Short Plays’ coming up and we knew that our fundraising campaign, the poem and Bricks would all coincide.

“It was decided that would launch the evening and we could make an event of it and get our ‘anthem’ out there to the people. Friday was sensational. To a packed theatre, Tony delivered it with aplomb. He had the audience in the palm of his hand; thy laughed, cried and my word, did they applaud.

“It was joyous – for those there, they will know just how much it meant to me and the whole team. To get a legend like Tony to support us like that is, we hope, what will represent the turning tide. It really bolsters us.”

You can watch the poem here.

Simon lamnented the fact that they were now having to have to ask for contributions from the public, but stressed there was no other way.

“Unfortunately we’re at the point now where we are asking people for donations.

“Obviously we now have Tony’s poem, ’These bricks, they speak’ and we’ll be selling posters, merch and have sold almost all of the limited edition prints we had made, of the poem.

“These, if you like, were lap one of our marathon but set us on our way that is incomparable to anything we’ve ever done here.

“We’ve also launched ‘Giz a Quid’, asking patrons for £1 a week. A lot of people are being more generous than this and donating larger amounts, but, although to some £1 a week isn’t a lot, to us, if we can get enough, this is exactly the right kind of support.

“It provides stability, foundations to grow and also supports us financially when the theatre is going through some tricky stuff. We have over 11,000 followers – if we can get 400-500 of these to donate £1 a week, that’s breathing life into us.

“We’re also offering patrons the chance to sponsor a brick – a perspex plate will go over a brick in the arch with your inscription on it. It’s not an original idea but it’s lovely and again, super helpful to us in raising money, but also, not just asking patrons for cash. They get to become a part of the arches.”

Simon is now hoping to encourage people to come down and see a show, and enjoy the unique and memorable environment of 53two.

He said: “One thing I’d put money on is that even single person who has been to the arches, has never walked away going ’that’s an awful place’. People talk of the energy of the space, the welcome, the ‘vibe’ if you like.

“It’s a place where you can come with no friends and leave with some, it’s a place where everybody knows your name and you can instantly become a part of our community, our arches.

“We have lots happening in the arches from Pianoke, to Quiz Night to, of course, brand new writing being performed regularly. There are offers on every week and even without those offers, with a pie and a beer/glass of wine for just £9, you’re in safe hands. For theatre-goers, the venue is ‘crafted – and I choose that word carefully – with access at heart.

“Not just wheelchair accessible or affordable tickets, but, the feel of the venue is organic and non-intimidating, not a big steel/glass structure.

“The music we play, the ’trinkets’ on display. Moreover, the shows we produce and/or welcome are accessible in every sense of the word. We will rarely touch on experimental, European theatre (as great as it is!) but instead, use local writers, stage shows that are about issues that our patrons might recognise, using actors that mirror the people we want to come through the door.

“Theatre is an ethos, it’s far more than the lights and grease paint and when you make theatre for everyone, everyone feels welcome. Come say hi!”

You can get involved with their campaign by clicking here.


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