Oldham Theatre Published: Tuesday, 21st February 2023

OLDHAM'S brand-new theatre can be seen for the first time today, in images released ahead of a Cabinet meeting next week – showcasing how the arts venue is a key part of our new-look town centre.

The new theatre will provide a more modern, accessible venue for performers and audiences from Oldham and beyond.

Proposals include a new 300 to 350-seat auditorium, as well as a smaller 120-seat studio, together with enhanced back-stage facilities, additional education, event and rehearsal spaces, and better front-of house facilities including bar and café areas.

The new £24m theatre will revitalize Oldham’s cultural offer, create additional jobs and attract visitors into the town centre.

At a meeting on Monday, 27 February, Oldham Council's Cabinet committee is set to recommit to building the new theatre and also formally accept funding of £1.845m from Arts Council England, for cultural activities in the borough while the new theatre is built.

It's on target to be open by 2026 – giving certainty to the future of performing arts in the town, and building on our theatrical legacy.

Oldham Theatre

Plans are at an advanced stage, with a planning application to be submitted by this summer. The proposals have been developed by members of the current Oldham Coliseum Board and other cultural organisations, with support from the Arts Council.

Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “After the really sad news from the Coliseum in recent weeks, it's great to see such a positive step forward for the future of arts and culture here in Oldham.

"It's so exciting to see what our theatre will look like and how architects have translated the plans we’ve worked up with our partners for a brilliant new space, in the heart of our emerging cultural quarter.

“This fantastic new theatre will offer performers, staff, and audiences a great experience as well as revitalising our cultural offer, creating jobs and adding to the buzz of a vibrant town centre where people want to live, work and visit.

“Like nearly everyone else in Oldham I was devastated to hear the Coliseum proposes to close the doors for good. This makes it all the more important that our plans for a new theatre continue at pace; and we do still hope there can be a role for the Coliseum in this future.

“It was always the plan that the Coliseum would leave Fairbottom Street and take performances on the road to maintain and build audiences while we built the new theatre. The current building is at the end of its life, and performers, staff and audiences deserve better.

“We have a fantastic future for arts and performance here in our new theatre, building on our fantastic arts heritage, which the Coliseum and cultural partners have been integral to designing.”

Oldham Theatre

To access the Arts Council funding of £1.845m for arts and culture in the borough over the next three years, the Council must formally indicate its acceptance of this funding and recommit to the development of a new theatre for the borough.

At next Monday's meeting, Cabinet members are also set to agree the next steps for development, ahead of the planning application being submitted. The theatre, designed in conjunction with the Coliseum and cultural partners has drawn in a range of expertise, including independent benchmarking against similar theatres in other places, to come up with plans for the new venue, near to the current library and Gallery Oldham.

It was intended to be a future home for the Coliseum, and they have worked in partnership on designs until their recent announcement that they propose to close at the end of March 2023 after being unsuccessful in retaining funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).

Along with Arts Council England funding, the Coliseum has had support of around £138,000 per year from Oldham Council, use of the theatre, office space and car park rent-free, and around £100,000 from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

In November 2022, ACE announced the Coliseum had been unsuccessful in retaining its status and funding as a National Portfolio Organisation, deeming it ‘high risk’ and referencing concerns about the theatre’s financial management, leadership and governance. 

This accounted for around a third of the Coliseum’s funding. Oldham Council has, with ACE, supported the Coliseum since the announcement as they worked through their challenges to re-work their programme and find a workable way forward.

Recognising the love and loyalty that theatregoers have for the Oldham Coliseum name and history, Oldham Council is continuing conversations with the Coliseum Board to try and retain some of the artistic legacy.

In response to the recent public announcements from the Coliseum, the urgent report Cabinet will be considering can be seen here.


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