The future of a Greater Manchester theatre - which spawned the early careers of Charlie Chaplin, Ralph Fiennes, Minnie Driver and Stan Laurel - has been thrown into serious financial doubt.
It follows an Arts Council England (ACE), decision last week, to reject a near £1.845m three year ‘Levelling Up’ funding application, from the Oldham Coliseum.
The Coliseum’s chief executive Susan Wildman said: “Having been funded by ACE for decades, the Coliseum’s current business model relied on this funding, and as such the theatre, is having to look again at how it will move forward
“We understand the pressures that ACE faces in supporting as many organisations as possible and we thank them for all their financial support over many years.
“The theatre’s executive and senior management teams are working on this as a matter of urgency, but having received this news only last Friday, the theatre does not yet have all the answers.”
The 137 year old community based theatre, has a long history of providing many young actors with a first step on the ladder in TV, including Bernard Cribbins, Dora Bryan, Eric Sykes, Kathy Staff, Thora Hird and Coronation Street soap stars, Pat Phoenix (ElsieTanner), Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre Barlow), William Roache (Ken Barlow), Barbara Knox (Rita Sullivan) and Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy).
Since the Coliseum re-opened on 24 June 2021, following the Covid-19 lockdowns, the theatre: has staged over 400 performances with 67,000 people seeing a show. Produced five plays and welcomed nine visiting companies and toured two productions to Lancaster, Cumbria and Yorkshire and made its Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. Worked with 948 young people, 825 adults and 1,776 community members and families. Worked with 4,152 students in schools and 374 students. Welcomed 367 people to 17 workshops, mixers and performances for its annual Cultivate festival for theatre makers, worked with eight local South Asian community groups to present the inaugural Khushi festival of happiness, and welcomed 1,500 people to 26 events and four exhibitions over three days. Run two Teaching Theatre pathways courses for NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training) young people, teaching transferrable backstage theatre skills, with five successful Bronze Arts Awards gained and another three in progress. Ran two Get Started with Theatre courses with The Prince’s Trust, working with 35 young people. Won the UK Pantomime Association Award for Best Costume Design for 2021’s pantomime Aladdin, and received nominations for Best Principal Boy and Best Set Design, and the Asian Media Award for Best Stage Production for the September 2021 production of Love N Stuff.
The Coliseum’s artistic director Chris Lawson remains upbeat that the ‘show must go on’ by explaining: “We are determined to continue delivering our programme of shows, learning and opportunities as much as possible and we are surveying the options available to us.
“Our sincere thanks go to our peers, artists that we have worked with from across the UK and further afield and our amazing audiences for their very vocal support. Rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to help the Coliseum thrive even under the most difficult ofcircumstances.”
In the meantime, the theatre is preparing to open its award-winning pantomime this weekend – with Robin Hood –and announcing 2023’s pantomime with tickets going on sale on Saturday, November 12 - as is the theatre’s tradition.
Ms Wildman added: “For all those who have asked what they can do to help, the message is simple: please continue to support us financially or in whatever way you can. Buy a ticket and come and see the great work that we make. Please give a donation when you book. Think about how your business can work.”
Online donations to the Coliseum can be made at: Support Us
To book tickets for Robin Hood please click HERE
Header Image: 'Me Mam Says' - starring Ralph Fiennes