Oldham Coliseum, the beloved local theatre which launched the career of countless British TV and movie stars, has officially been saved and will reopen in time for pantomime season next year.

Following its devastating closure in 2023 after Arts Council England withdrew a £1.8m funding grant, Oldham’s totemic live performance venue will once again swing open its doors on Fairbottom Street thanks to a tireless campaign led by Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and BAFTA-winning screenwriter Ian Kershaw, with help from Oldham Council in securing an incredible £10m pledge to ensure its salvation.

Known throughout North Manchester as an historic, integral home of world-class drama, the Coliseum helped propel several actors to stardom, including Christopher Eccleston, Maxine Peake and Suranne Jones, who supported the campaign in a short film released earlier this year.

Over 100 people attended a special celebration event yesterday evening, where Hesmondhalgh and Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah delivered the good news.

Describing the theatre as the ‘beating heart’ of the town, Hesmondhalgh said: “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.

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.

Cllr Arooj Shah added: “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.

An Arts Council England spokesperson said:

At Arts Council England, 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.

Keep up to date with news on the official reopening via the Oldham Coliseum website.

Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Tue 9 Jul 2024