Tony Walsh supports drive for disability facilities at 53two


Arts Council declines funding to create much needed disabled access toilet facilities at popular Manchester arts venue 53two.

Together with theatre patron Tony Walsh the owners of the Watson Street venue are now seeking the support of Greater Manchester businesses to develop the venue and add a Changing Places toilet for its accessible theatre.

In April, Creative Director of 53two, Simon Naylor, received the devastating news that despite submitting a strong application, the Arts Council had rejected their bid to develop the theatre to a 150 seater, fully-accessible, Changing Places venue for new writing.

BAFTA Winner and TripleC founder Cherylee Houston added her support to the fund-raising drive saying: “53two is an incredibly important venture for creatives across Manchester. Not only did they design their building so far to be entirely step free they actively ensure they include disabled creatives across their work. They are an accessible venue that is warm and welcoming and ensure that all disabled creatives continually feel part of their phenomena programme of work.”

Commenting on the need for the development and inclusion of a specialist toilet facility in the new theatre development Simon Naylor said: “Obviously it was a terrible email to read, but, we sat on it, re-grouped and it was clear that we had to press on regardless of the bid outcome. We have already helped produce quality theatre in our small venue, and are continuing to support those artists who need a platform. We have a season of brand new writing lined up including the return of a much loved Manchester institution, loved by many but yet to be announced. We have no choice but to take matters into our own hands and are now looking to Manchester’s business community to help us raise the funds needed.”

Currently, Manchester has very few Changing Places toilets which restricts the number of venues that can host events which are fully inclusive of all access needs and which provide a platform for underserved, disabled and disenfranchised artists. None of the existing Changing Places toilets are in theatres.

Simon continues: “Many of our guests, artists and visitors have complex access needs and can only stay at the venue if we have fully accessible toilet facilities. The Changing Places toilet would provide a changing bed, a hoist and lots of space and privacy for carers to help people with using the toilet. Without it many have to leave the venue and go home which is heart breaking to see happen time and time again.”

“So, to celebrate our first year anniversary on 27th May, we are inviting people from across Manchester, including those visionaries and giants who we are hoping can provide the financial support we need to grow the venue and create the facilities our patrons require. We are offering companies the naming rights for the auditorium for up to the next 5 years, in return for the investment required to get the theatre space up to spec.”

53two will be hosting its party and announcing its development plans in the iconic arches and is offering live music from The Villanelles, Award Winning DJ/Host Tom Finkill, a routine from International Wheelchair Dance Champion, Monique Jarrett, and Theatre Patron, Tony Walsh, will also be reciting his battle hymn for the arts, ‘Arts and Minds’.

The venue already has planning in place for the work to upgrade the theatre and install the toilet facilities in the Grade II* listed tunnels beneath Manchester Central and are determined to continue to create what they set out to do with the help of corporate sponsorship.

Venue Manager, Alexandra Maxwell, Venue Manager said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a year dealing with the challenges of a new business and the ever-changing climate in hospitality. That said, our community was well established at our old venue and their support has been incredible. By January 2022 we felt positive that we could start the next chapter of our journey and open up the second arch in its entirety, however the Arts Council’s surprising response and has driven us to try to raise the funds in a different way.”

If you’re interested in attending the evening or for more information on the Sponsorship Package, please contact Simon on

To donate to 53two, visit

Adam Parry
Author: Adam Parry

Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.

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