Beloved theatre the Oldham Coliseum saved from permanent closure

A bit of good news for the arts in Greater Manchester...

By Lucy Holt | 9 July 2024

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Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh led the campaign which will see the venue refurbished in time for panto season 2025.

A hard-fought community campaign has seen the reversal of plans to close the Oldham Coliseum, an iconic theatre with over 135 years of history. 

Doors closed in 2023 after Arts Council England withdrew funding due to concerns over its management, while the local council said it was no longer fit for purpose.

Plans by Oldham Borough Council to replace the theatre with a smaller, £24 million theatre were met with dismay by the local community and cultural figures from across the North West, who described the plans as ‘devastating’.

Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and Coronation Street scriptwriter Ian Kershaw spearheaded the Save Oldham Coliseum campaign, which last night announced they had been successful in securing the funding to keep the theatre open.

The venue – which opened in 1885 and saw performances from the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Dame Thora Hird – will now undergo £10 million worth of refurbishment and will re-open in time for pantomime season 2025.

Credit: Oldham Council

The campaign was supported by other stars with connections to the North West, like Suranne Jones, Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake.

Writing about their victory on X, Hesmondhalgh wrote: “Absolute moment of people power. Thank you to everyone who signed petitions, wrote letters, carried banners, never gave up. And thanks to those who listened and acted!”

Speaking about the decision to reverse the closure, Council leader Arooj Shah said locals had “an affection for this building that you can’t ignore”, and that she “wanted to listen to the people”.

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