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Oldham Coliseum shock announcement

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Oldham Coliseum - to close
Oldham Coliseum - to close

In November last year it was revealed that Oldham's iconic Coliseum Theatre was to be dropped from Arts Council England's regular funding programme. The Coliseum this afternoon released the following statement:

"It is with great regret that Oldham Coliseum Theatre is cancelling all forthcoming events from Sunday 26 March 2023, including the Spring-Summer programme and the 2023-24 pantomime Sleeping Beauty. Following the news on November 4, 2022 that the Coliseum will no longer be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from April 2023, the Board of Trustees and senior leadership team have been working hard to find a solution to this reduction in funding.

"The theatre put the pantomime on sale in November and announced the spring-summer season in early December with the best possible intentions, while still exploring options that may have enabled the continuation of the programme. "However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the season as planned. We are working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to honour agreements with artists and producing partners.

"All events at the Coliseum until March 26 will go ahead as planned. Ticket holders for all other events will be refunded over the coming weeks. If you have paid for tickets using a debit or credit card this will be refunded directly to your card. If you have paid for tickets using cash the box office team will be in touch to arrange an alternate refund method. Any donations made to the theatre when booking tickets for cancelled events and Our Coliseum members whose memberships are due to expire after 26 March will also be refunded.

"It has been an incredibly difficult decision to cancel the programme of events and we understand the disappointment this will undoubtedly cause. The Coliseum asks audiences to be patient whilst staff work through each refund transaction manually."

An Arts Council England spokesperson said:

“We can appreciate how difficult it must have been for the board and team at Oldham Coliseum to take the decision to cancel forthcoming events, and how unsettling this must be for the staff and all those who work with the theatre as well as disappointing for audiences.

"We will continue to work with the theatre and Oldham Council over the coming weeks. We are committed to supporting the future of performing arts in Oldham for the benefit of the local community and to maintaining our investment in the town.”

Opened in 1887, the Coliseum is one of the oldest British theatres still operating and is much loved by its loyal supporters. Once a circus, in the 1930s it was briefly a cinema before becoming the members-only Oldham Repertory Theatre. It is said to be one of the most haunted theatres in Britain and a famous stage death occurred there in the 1940s.

By the 1950s-60s the resident company helped to form the careers of Coronation Street stars Jean Alexander, Pat Phoenix, Roy Barraclough, William Roache and local girls Barbara Knox and Anne Kirkbride.

In 1978 it became the Arts Council and local authority-supported Oldham Coliseum. Offering a mix of professional productions of its own and other touring shows, it is famous for its massively-popular annual pantomime and has thriving community groups.

Plans for a new building were scrapped in late 2018 so the original remains, part hidden down a side street.


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