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Good news about loos

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

Lavatories in theatres – or rather lack of them. It’s one of my favourite topics and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ranted about woeful provision, especially for women. Well, at last there’s a bit of good news on the loo front.

Last year it was announced that Simon and Sue Ruddick – he’s chairman of Albourne Partners – had pledged around £100.000 for the improvement of theatre lavatories in a scheme called “Spend a Penny”. It’s aimed particularly at making things better for women but also for the creation of “gender-neutral and unisex” toilets. I’m puzzled about the difference between the latter but we’ll let that pass.

Well, Theatres Trust was put in charge of allocating grants to theatres in need of improved loos and the first eight theatres to benefit have just been announced. Eight historic theatres across the country each get £15,000 and they range from the Shelley Theatre in Bournemouth – a small community theatre – to the Grade 1 listed Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The only theatre in London selected is Little Angel Theatre.  Of course I can think of plenty of other worthy contenders (Ambassadors and Fortune for instance) but resources are finite and, I hope, this is only the start.

I am therefore delighted to see tiny, beautiful Little Angel which produces fabulous puppetry-based work for children singled out in this way. Its toilets are, at present, direly inadequate and I always get comfortable in Costa Coffee along the road before I arrive there. That’s not so easy if you have several small children in tow. And I was once at a Little Angel press performance also attended by a disabled playwright, who uses a big wheelchair, and her carer. They had serious difficulty with using the existing loos. The grant will create three new unisex loos along with a larger baby-changing facility. And the new lavatories will make basins, soap and towels more accessible to children who struggle with current arrangements. Hurrah.

I understand that Mr and Mrs Ruddick haven’t  yet been to. and enjoyed exquisite Little Angel Theatre. I hope they’ll be able to see one of its fine shows very soon and that Mrs Ruddick (whose complaints to her husband triggered this initiative) won’t have to pop into Costa first.

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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