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Newport toilets that were used for cottaging to become a performance space

Arts entrepreneur Janet Martin hopes to repurpose the Newport Victorian gentlemen’s loos as a theatre Arts entrepreneur Janet Martin hopes to repurpose the Newport Victorian gentlemen’s loos as a theatre
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A block of men’s public toilets in Newport is set to be transformed into a performing arts venue.

Arts entrepreneur Janet Martin hopes to repurpose the Victorian gentlemen’s loos as a philanthropic venture for the people of Newport.

Subject to planning permission, the space would become a 25-seat micro-venue used for monologues, site-specific works, magicians and other professional and amateur performances.

Martin, who also owns a picture framing business and a gallery in Newport, and has previously converted a church into an arts centre called Barnabas Arts House, said she has “lusted after the loos” for 20 years.

The toilet block, believed to have been built for dock workers in the late 1800s, was an operational men’s toilet until it was closed down by the council three years ago.

Martin then liaised with Newport City Council to buy the toilets, which she says are located in the most “challenging part of the city”, and were previously used by residents for “cottaging”.

“I bought it with this pioneering attitude that I’ve got to win over the people and show them a place that was a cottage can be something more interesting and reach a wider audience,” she said.

“It is on the front line of the most challenging part of the city, but so are my other buildings. I feel strongly about Newport, and about the arts and community being of paramount importance in society,” she added.

Martin has applied for planning permission to change the use of the public toilets into a performing arts studio, and also to remove the men’s urinals.

If granted permission, the venue will be renovated as a “basic white cube”, with plans for one of the walls to be replaced with folding glass shutters, so that residents can watch performances from the grass outside the block.

Martin added: “We plan to open the venue by the summer, and put chairs on the grass outside, so that instead of shooting up heroin and drinking Stella, people will be able to sit and watch performances.”

The venue will be named the Phyllis Maud Performance Space after Martin’s late aunt.

Martin said: “I lost an aunt this year, she was 96 years of age and she loved coming here and looking at the arts.

“She was quite a character and she left me a couple of bob. I could have gone on a world cruise with it, but instead I bought a gentleman’s toilets.”

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