Entertainment & Arts

Women's toilets an issue for West End theatres

The Old Vic Theatre/ a toilet Image copyright Getty Images

A survey of West End theatres has found there is an average of just one toilet for every 38 female audience members.

The research by The Stage calculated that women would need a 57-minute interval to all visit the loo. The average interval is 20 minutes.

The Old Vic had the fewest with one toilet for every 56 women.

Many theatres struggle to increase the number of toilets due to their buildings having listed status and the Old Vic is a Grade II-listed building.

The theatre recently launched a £100,000 public fundraising campaign to improve the toilets and access to the theatre featuring Glenda Jackson and Joanna Lumley.

The works will more than double the number of female loos. They have so far raised £52,482.

Top of the list in toilet provision is the more modern National Theatre, which has one toilet for every 20 women. It is also open throughout the day and houses a learning centre, restaurants and bookshop.

The Stage report that the average-sized West End theatre should have a minimum of 45 women's toilets but they found the average West End theatre has 25.

British Standard guidelines state there should be two toilets for up to 25 women, plus one for every additional 25 women at theatres.

When you combine the figures for men and women together there is an average of one toilet for every 26 audience members. The survey counts one toilet as a cubicle or a urinal and men are better provided for because urinals take up less space than a cubicle.

Image copyright Old Vic Theatre
Image caption Joanna Lumley and Glenda Jackson are part of the Old Vic's campaign to raise money for more women's toilets

Complaints about the lack of facilities for women in the West End was addressed in 2016 when the Theatres Trust launched a scheme handing out £125,000 to up to 10 theatres to improve facilities for women.

Tom Stickland from the Theatres Trust told the Stage: "The challenge historic theatres face providing enough toilets is one that theatre-operators and theatre-goers know only too well.

"Major refurbishments of these theatres often look to address this, particularly around the under-provision of ladies loos, but they are often limited by the front of house space found in Victorian and Edwardian theatres."

All venues surveyed for this study are members of the Society of London Theatre, apart from the six theatres owned by Nimax, which include the Lyric, the Palace, the Vaudeville, the Apollo, the Duchess, the Garrick, which did not take part in the survey.

When it came to disabled toilets, they found 62% of the 42 theatres had just one disabled toilet, with two - the Ambassadors and Wyndham's - offering no disabled access to toilets.

They found some gender-neutral facilities have been introduced at the Royal Court, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House.

A number of the theatres are planning improvements in their toilet provision in the future.


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