Though the Oldham Coliseum officially closed at the end of March it WILL live again, in the new, smaller Oldham theatre expected to open in 2026.
Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd, the company that ran the building and theatre company, has been named the "anchor tenant" – in other words the chief user – of the new £24million theatre on Greaves Street, currently being developed for an opening date in early 2026.
The announcement follows discussions between Oldham Council and the new board of Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd (OCT), the latter appointed following the Arts Council's decision to drop the 130+-years-old Oldham theatre from its national portfolio of regularly-funded companies. A bid by the theatre for £1.8million over three years was rejected by the Arts Council, leading to the current situation. Instead the money is likely to go to Oldham Council, for use in a wider cultural context across the borough.
Oldham Council had previously proposed but later dropped plans to build a new Coliseum theatre, only to revive them again more recently, and has since been widely criticised by fans of the Coliseum for not making its intentions clear and even allowing theatregoers to believe the Arts Council had effectively ended live theatre in Oldham.
As part of the revived discussions, new OCT chair Duncan Craig has joined Oldham's Performance Space Partnership Board, led by Manchester Festival and former Royal Exchange Theatre executive director Fiona Gasper, and which includes members from Oldham Council, Peshkar Theatre and Oldham Theatre Workshop. The PSPB is responsible for overseeing the new theatre's development.
The work includes a wider examination of arts and culture within Oldham borough and ways for the theatre company to operate at venues across the borough in the period leading up to the opening of the new building.
Duncan Craig said “My focus, since becoming chair in March, has been on listening to the Coliseum’s many friends, partners, collaborators and supporters – and I’m delighted that our conversations are starting to bear fruit.
"This has been a very difficult time for so many people associated with the Coliseum, from staff and volunteers to those who have simply known and loved this grand old theatre."
Emma Barton, executive director for Oldham's Place and Economic Growth department, said: “This is a milestone in the future of theatre in the borough, ensuring arts and performance continue to thrive in Oldham, and that performers and audiences have a fully accessible, modern and sustainable new venue.
“The new theatre is on target to be open by 2026 – giving certainty to the future of performing arts in the town and building on our theatrical legacy."