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Eight theatres share £120k Spend a Penny lavatory upgrade fund

The new foyer at the Royal Court, Liverpool Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre is one of the eight venues awarded £15,000 to enhance toilet facilities for women
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Liverpool’s Royal Court, Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, Little Angel Theatre in London and the Darlington Hippodrome are among eight venues chosen to receive a share of £120,000 to improve their ladies’ loos.

The grants are part of the Spend a Penny campaign, which is backed by Judi Dench and was launched by the Theatres Trust last year after ongoing complaints of the under-provision and poor quality of female toilet facilities in theatres.

The eight theatres have each been given £15,000 to improve toilet facilities for women, but also to improve provision of gender neutral and unisex toilets.

According to the British Standards Institution, a 500-seat auditorium should have around eight ladies’ toilets. However, many theatres do not meet this standard.

Among those increasing the number of ladies toilets is the Darlington Hippodrome, formerly the Darlington Civic, which will boost its capacity by adding four new ladies loos to its upper circle area.

The Shelley Theatre in Bournemouth is currently undergoing a full restoration. As part of that, it will use the Spend a Penny funding to increase toilet provision, which at the moment comprises a number of unisex lavatories, by adding a further six ladies’ loos.

Children’s puppet theatre Little Angel, in Islington, has only three toilets in its present layout. However, the funding received will help create three new unisex loos pus a larger accessible toilet. The new loos will also be more accessible to children.

The Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis and Theatre Royal Wakefield will build four and three new ladies’ loos respectively, the latter to tie in the with the opening of its new centre for creativity, which includes a 100-seat studio theatre.

Elsewhere, the “dilapidated and out of date” facilities at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle will be substantially upgraded, while the Royal Court in Liverpool is part-way through a major capital project and will use the money to upgrade existing toilets and improve access to them from the auditorium.

The Stephen Joseph is also improving existing facilities, which the trust describes as “very dated”. The facilities will be entirely re-plumbed and refitted with new hand basins, anti-slip flooring and redecoration.

The scheme has been financed by philanthropist Simon Ruddick, who said he was inspired to help after hearing his wife’s complaints about ladies’ loos in many theatres.

He has previously noted the that the initiative had “been received with a certain amount of wry humour”, but stressed that there was nothing trivial about the problems, which have been well documented, particularly with regards to older buildings.

Announcing the successful venues, Ruddick said: “Although my original impulse was simply to lift the lid on this specific issue, we hope other donors will bear in mind the contributions that theatres make to the community and the contribution that the Theatres Trust makes to the community of theatres.”

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