16 March 2023

Oldham Coliseum confirms closure with ‘deep sadness’

16 March 2023

Oldham Coliseum has confirmed it will close in two weeks’ time, despite a campaign backed by unions and high-profile actors.

The Greater Manchester venue, which opened its doors in 1885, said on Thursday that “with deep sadness” its final performance would take place on March 31.

A redundancy process will begin that will affect all staff, it added.

The venue is closing after Arts Council England (ACE) announced funding for the venue would be cut.

Among those who have decried the move are Jason Manford and Maxine Peake, who previously told a campaign meeting the theatre had played an important role in inspiring her as a young actress.

Oldham Coliseum said in a statement on its website: “We know the theatre’s closure is deeply upsetting for our audiences and participants, not least because of the joyful memories that hundreds of thousands of people from across the North West have of visiting the Coliseum to get involved in projects or to experience our home-produced plays, musicals and award-winning pantomimes.

“The Coliseum has been at the heart of theatre in Oldham for over 100 years and has survived two World Wars and a global pandemic.”

The venue thanked trade unions Equity and Bectu for their respective campaigns against the closure.

“The outpouring of love for the theatre over the past weeks has been overwhelming, demonstrating the Coliseum’s impact on the communities of Oldham and further afield,” the statement added.

Equity general secretary Paul Fleming said: “Oldham Coliseum’s closure is a damning indictment of both the Arts Council’s initial decision to cut its funding, and the half-baked plan to throw cash at the council in light of local uproar.

“We should be clear that we are here because of the Arts Council’s strategy, which is made by people who have no understanding of how important this theatre is to its town, Greater Manchester and the North West region’s cultural ecology.”

A spokeswoman for ACE, an arms length body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Oldham Coliseum Ltd’s closure is upsetting news for many and devastating for its staff.

“We are providing funding to ensure the company can pay full redundancies to its employed and freelance staff and that it can honour any outstanding contracts and agreements.”

She said ACE was “supportive” of Oldham Council’s recently announced plans for a new theatre in the borough, reportedly costing £24 million, which is scheduled to open in 2026.

“We will be investing £1.85 million in the borough so that the people of Oldham will still have the opportunity to enjoy and take part in arts and culture,” she added.

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