Board behind closed Oldham Coliseum Theatre to move into new £24m venue

The theatre announced its permanent closure in March this year.

By Emma Davidson | 19 May 2023

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Image: Oldham Coliseum Theatre

After the devastating news that Oldham’s Coliseum Theatre was to close permanently earlier this year, it has now been announced that its board will take over a brand-new theatre space opening in the town in 2026. 

Confirmed by Oldham Council, the board – which was set-up to oversee the closure and legacy of the 135-year-old Oldham Coliseum Theatre – is set to be the tenant of a new £24m venue and its programme of events. The new space will hold an auditorium of 300 – 350 seats and a 120-seat studio, alongside events and rehearsal spaces.

The final curtain was brought down at the OCT on 31 March 2023, in a performance led by local actors Maxine Peak and Christopher Eccleston. The venue had been found not fit for purpose by the council and was stripped of its government funding, leading it to shut its doors and make all staff redundant.  

Maxine Peak and Christopher Eccleston at OCT’s closing show. Image: OCT

Dating back to the late 1800s, the theatre has nurtured the careers of many Northern stars, including; Charlie Chaplin, Coronation Street’s Bill Roach and leading Happy Valley actor, Sarah Lancashire.  

Proposed plans for the new theatre see it located on Greaves Street in Oldham’s ‘cultural quarter’, with the construction being funded by Oldham Council who are planning to open the building in 2026. In the run up to the opening, the council and OCT have been in discussions to bring a range of art events to the town, as they build new partnerships to ensure the new theatre responds to the needs of Oldham’s diverse communities.

Duncan Craig OBE, Chair of Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd, 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’ve simply known and loved this grand old theatre. 

“My huge thanks go to Chris Lawson, the Coliseum’s outgoing artistic director, and the Coliseum’s departing staff, who have continued to work with tireless dedication in such trying circumstances. My fellow board members and I look forward to continuing collaborating with Oldham Council, Arts Council England, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and others as we work together on delivering culture to the heart of Oldham.”

Emma Barton, Executive Director for Place and Economic Growth furthered: “This is a key milestone in the future of theatre in the borough, ensuring arts and performance continue to thrive in Oldham, and ensuring that performers and audiences have a fully accessible, modern and sustainable new venue.

“The new theatre will revitalise Oldham’s cultural offer, create additional jobs and attract visitors into the town centre. 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 – along with activities and performance to build and maintain audiences between now and then.”

Oldham Council has submitted a proposal to Arts Council England for £1.85m over the next three years – which would see OCT playing a key role in the delivery of the arts and cultural programme alongside other cultural organisations. A decision is awaited.