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About 53two

53two was grown from acting school Manchester Actors' Platform, MAP. The school was established to provide affordable, professional services for actors after so many of these were unobtainable, inaccessible or unaffordable. After producing our first show under the banner MAP Productions in 2016, a whole new tier of the company was born. 

The team were approached by a property developer to take over one of their empty spaces, the old Bauer Millet Garage, Albion St. It was a big ask in the damp, well-loved and almost unworkable spaces but, out of 24 companies we were selected for the job and 53two was born. In just a few months we transformed two arches into two of the most exciting spaces in Manchester for new theatre productions, events and private parties. We weren't water-tight but we knew how to make theatre!  

This space was always temporary so we knew we had to hit the ground running. We opened by hosting a welcome banquet for the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. We were able to install a pop-up kitchen, house hundreds of guests and provide live music, a three course dinner and a quirky space, beneath Manchester's historic railway arches. After this roaring success, the bookings flooded in and the space grew in name, popularity and boldness, hosting award winning productions, huge outdoor events, ceremonies and even private dinners for Howard Bernstein, then Chief Exec of the city. 

It's flexibility as a space was what made it perfect - we could house pretty much anything and this quickly became adopted in our slogan; 'From weddings to wrestling'. If you had it, we could house it and we thrived on the challenge of using our blank canvas to create the perfect venue for your events.

It was at these arches we began to recognise the need for and lack of accessible venues, spaces and theatres in our city. So, combining this with our passion to provide theatre and space for everyone, it made sense to become a registered charity. Our aims were no longer just to provide affordable professional services and performances, but also to provide those for EVERYONE, no matter what might have previously held them back. We began work to ensure that the whole space was accessible and very quickly the space became THEE theatre to host your event, because of it's accessibility. Ramps, disabled toilets, BSL interpretation, captioning were all a part of our fabric. We recognised that even with a physical access, it was important to make sure our shows were affordable and so 'Unwaged Tickets' were made available for every performance; £2 tickets for those on income support and/or those that couldn't afford full price. 

In 2019 we moved out of our first home into temporary, accessible studios to await our move into our new arches just 50 yards away, beneath Manchester Central Convention Centre. Despite COVID delaying and costing us money, we were able to raise enough money to begin work on Phase 1 - the arts café/bar hub. On January 4th we signed a 15-year lease and began work on developing the 150-year-old, Grade II* listed arches into a brand new, fully accessible hideaway for creatives. 

Its gentle gradient throughout, lowered bar, disabled toilet, modular, removable table system and more, mean that the space isn't just adapted for people with a disability, it's just the norm that every part of it is accessible for all. Even our studio space which will house small productions, screenings, workshops and more is accessed via a shallow ramp. We will continue to fight for accessibility, holding ear defenders under the bar for neuro-divergent patrons, using captions when appropriate and BSL interpreters - indeed our bar staff have all been trained via a bespoke course through Manchester Deaf Centre, to converse about purchases in the venue, with BSL speakers. 

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