Oldham Coliseum reveals when it will shut for good - plus ticket refund info for cancelled shows

Oldham Coliseum, which was plunged into crisis after having its funding from Arts Council England cut, is consulting with its staff.
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A Greater Manchester theatre which was plunged into financial crisis when its grant funding from Arts Council England (ACE) was cut could close its doors at the end of next month.

A statement by Oldham Coliseum on Tuesday (14 February) said it is proposing to close the historic venue, which has been an arts hub in the town for well over a century, on 31 March. It says it will enter consultation with its staff.

The venue said that it has been unable to find a viable way forward following the 100% grant cut by ACE when the national funding body declined to keep it as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).

The potential closure of the Coliseum has been greeted with dismay in the world of arts and culture, with prominent, high-profile actors leading efforts to save it. Oldham Council’s leader said the news was devastating but that a new building for theatre is needed in the town and the local authority is still committed to providing it as part of regeneration plans.

What has Oldham Coliseum said about closing?

The statement from Oldham Coliseum read: “Following the news on 4 November 2022 that Oldham Coliseum will no longer be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 1 April 2023, the Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership Team have been working hard to find a solution to this reduction in funding. However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the running of a full-time theatre. It is with great regret therefore that we announce that we have entered into a consultation period with all staff and it is proposed that Oldham Coliseum Theatre will close its doors on Friday 31 March 2023.

“The Coliseum is working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to ensure a smooth transition period for the company, including funding to enable support for our workforce and honouring commitments to artists.

“The Coliseum has been at the heart of theatre in Oldham for over 100 years, with a highly regarded history in the industry dating back to the Oldham Rep which launched the careers of many famous faces. Many of the Coliseum’s staff have lived in Oldham all their lives and worked with the company for over a decade. They are the priority for the company at this time.”

The Coliseum said shows at the venue until 26 March are going ahead, with any show after that cancelled and ticket holders being refunded.

The statement concluded: “The Coliseum would like to thank its audiences, participants, sponsors, partners, funders, patrons, industry colleagues and friends for their support over many years.”

What efforts have been made to save the Coliseum?

Stars of stage and screen have rallied round the venue, which dates back to 1885 to try to save it. Leading actors Julie Hesmondhalgh and Maxine Peake have been speaking out against the theatre’s closure, while former Coronation Street actor Stuart Wolfenden started a fund-raising page online which has had several thousand pounds donated.

He told ManchesterWorld how the venue created opportunities for a number of young people from the area who would go on to professional careers as actors in shows including much-loved soap operas to first tread the boards.

ACE has said it has ringfenced £1.845m to support culture and the arts in Oldham and is in discussion with Oldham Council about how the money should be spent. It said it also supports plans for a performing space in the town.

What has Oldham Council said?

Coun Amanda Chadderton, leader of Oldham Council, said: “Like nearly everyone else in Oldham I’m devastated to hear the latest update from the Coliseum – that they propose to close the doors for good - but I understand the reasons for the difficult decision that they’ve come to.

“The council has been talking to them since November when they found out they were losing Arts Council funding and we have tried to help them in every way possible to continue, but the scale and severity of their financial challenges seem to have proven insurmountable.

“The building is no longer fit for purpose, it’s not compliant for accessibility, and it’s in a poor state of repair - audiences, performers and staff deserve better.

“The plan was that the Coliseum would always move out of their home on Fairbottom Street and move to do more productions and outreach work in the community to build an offer and a demand for the new theatre.

“Oldham Council remains committed to building a new theatre on Union Street as part of our regeneration plans for the town centre.

“We will continue to work with the Coliseum and Arts Council during this difficult time for the Coliseum and it’s staff, and see if there is a way to retain the name and the spirit of the great artistic legacy that the Oldham Coliseum has.”