Oldham Coliseum SAVED and will reopen in time for panto season

-Credit: (Image: Manchester Evening News)
-Credit: (Image: Manchester Evening News)

Oldham's Coliseum theatre has been saved and is officially due to reopen in time for the 2025 pantomime season.

The historic theatre was forced to close in March last year after Arts Council England withdrew a £1.8m grant from the theatre following a nationwide review. The decision left a group of loyal fans 'devastated’ and sparked a huge campaign to keep it venue alive.

Announcing the news this evening (July 8), former Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh said she was "over the moon" at the decision. She describe the nearly 140-year-old building as the "beating heart" of Oldham.

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The Coliseum helped launch the careers of several renowned British actors and writers. A number of those who have trod the boards at the Coliseum, including Suranne Jones, Christopher Eccleston, Maxine Peake, also lent their support to the campaign by appearing in a short film earlier this year.

Now, an energetic campaign spearheaded by Julie Hesmondhalgh and BAFTA-winning screenwriter Ian Kershaw alongside the support of Oldham Council has now secured a £10m pledge for its relaunch.

Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh announced that Oldham Coliseum theatre, was set to re-open -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh announced that Oldham Coliseum theatre, was set to re-open -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Council leader Arooj Shah, who was also present at the announcement, told the LDRS: “This feels like the right thing to do. I remember knocking on doors and speaking to people and hearing all these nice stories about how they had their first dates here, how they came here with their families - and it just felt really brutal that we’d lost that.

“The most important thing about arts and culture is it brings communities together like nothing else.”

The council had initially intended to build a new home for the Coliseum with better wheelchair access and space for a theatre cafe. But an initial design was abandoned when its projected price doubled and new plans showed a smaller ‘arts and culture’ venue without a producing theatre which “no one wanted”, according to Hesmondhalgh.

Hesmondhalgh told the LDRS: “I think this is a huge step in the right direction. Not just for the art and culture in town but across the board because any Northern town needs a heart at the centre of it.”

She aded: “This is a cause for celebration for so many people who have come together to show their passion for the theatre and bringing the Oldham Coliseum back to life. Oldham Council has shown a fantastic commitment to re-opening the Coliseum, and by working together, we can really put arts and culture at the heart of a transformed town centre. It feels like the start of a new, exciting era and it’s one that has been driven by the people of Oldham.”

Oldham Town Centre -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Oldham Town Centre -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Jim McMahon MP, who has also played a key role in the Coliseum’s re-opening, 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 testament to the value that culture and the arts have 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.

“Theatres in this country have suffered not only from the impact of the economic crisis, as hard-hit families have been forced to reprioritise budgets and spend less on cultural activities, but also from reductions in central arts funding and from the squeeze on local government budgets who local arts organisations rely on for much of their funding. "

The plans to bring the Coliseum back to life will be formally approved by Oldham Council’s Cabinet next Monday (July 15).