Oldham Coliseum is back, by popular request

Published: 9 July 2024
Reporter: David Chadderton

Julie Hesmondhalgh announcing the big news outside the Coliseum
Celebrating the news outside the Coliseum
The poster for the 2025 panto
Susan Twist, Doctor Who star and frequent performer at the Coliseum
Former Coliseum Artistic Director Kenneth Alan Taylor, Susan Twist and others
The empty auditorium of the Coliseum

A campaign headed by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and her husband, writer Ian Kershaw, to reopen Oldham Coliseum, which shut its doors in March 2023, has been successful.

The Coliseum lost its main Arts Council funding in November 2022 after ACE had been expressing concern over the running of the company for some time. The theatre closed, seemingly for good, in March 2023, prompting immediate protests from the theatre industry and local people, but the Council pressed ahead with plans to relocate the company at a new venue, due to open in 2026, which the protesters claimed was inadequate for the needs of a modern theatre.

At an event outside the theatre on 8 July 2024, Oldham Council Leader Councillor Arooj Shah announced, "Oldham Council has listened to local people. I can now reveal that we will bring the Coliseum back to life in time for the Christmas Panto 2025."

She added, “we are formally committing £10 million for this major programme that will see our famous venue open its doors to the public once more. We are working together for the future of theatre in this town. It's a big part of our plans—putting culture at the centre of transforming our town centre and creating a better Oldham for everyone.”

Jim McMahon MP, who has also played a key role in the Coliseum’s reopening, said, “this announcement is the direct result of people coming together to stand up for the things that matter in their communities. The outcry from the people of Oldham and beyond at the Coliseum’s closure was a testament to the value of culture, and the arts in forging relationships to places and between people.

“This investment, working alongside a model that brings local arts organisations and local people together with a shared stake in its future, will help secure not only this fantastic building with its amazing heritage but also the future of producing theatre in this borough.”

Arts Council England stated, “our priority is to work with the people of Oldham to make sure that they have access to the art and theatre that they want—which is why we're investing £1.845 million over three years to support a creative and cultural programme in the borough, delivered by partners including Oldham Coliseum Theatre Limited and Oldham Theatre Workshop.

“While the Coliseum building belongs to Oldham Council and isn’t funded by the Arts Council, we know what a well-loved landmark it is, and recognise its link to the strong history of theatre in the town and the work the campaign group has been doing to preserve it."

The plans are to be approved formally by Oldham Council's Cabinet on Monday 15 July.

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