As the permanent closure of Oldham Coliseum draws closer - a former soap star has declared herself baffled - by plans that will force the closure of one of Britain's most iconic theatres.
It follows a decision in November by Arts Council England (ACE) to refuse a three year £1.8m application for “levelling up funding” for the Oldham Coliseum, which is situated in one of the most deprived boroughs in Britain.
On Tuesday (Feb 21) a public meeting will be held at the theatre, in an eleventh hour bid to stave off closure. The meeting at 6.30pm will be lead by actors Maxine Peake and Victoria Brazier with theatre CEO Chris Lawson and Equity representative Paul Livesey.
Former Coronation Street actor Paula Lane, who appeared last year in the production of Jim Cartwright's Road, said today, that the ACE decision was 'unfathomable'.
She explained: "I cannot understand the decision to cut all the funding; it's wrong on so many levels and I'm absolutely devastated by the announcement for the people who work there and those who will miss out on the opportunities Oldham Coliseum has offered.
"The outpouring of love for this theatre and its employees both past and present goes to show what a wonderful place it is."
She adds: "It also makes me question the direction in which our industry is heading."
The theatre’s Shelly Ramsdale said: “The current financial situation is not sustainable for the running of a full-time theatre.
“It is with great regret therefore that we announce that we have entered into a consultation period with all staff and it is proposed that Oldham Coliseum Theatre will close its doors on Friday, March 31, 2023.”
In the meantime, the 138 year old theatre is working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to ensure a smooth transition period for the company, including funding to enable support for the workforce and honouring commitments to artists.
The Coliseum has been at the heart of theatre in Oldham for over 100 years, with a highly regarded history in the industry dating back to the Oldham Rep which launched the careers of many famous faces including Charlie Chaplin and Minnie Driver.
All events at the Coliseum until Sunday 26 March will go ahead as planned. Ticket holders for all other events will be refunded over the coming weeks. Any donations made to the theatre when booking tickets for cancelled events and Our Coliseum members whose memberships are due to expire after 26 March will also be refunded.
Shelly added: “Many of the Coliseum’s staff have lived in Oldham all their lives and worked with the company for over a decade. They are the priority for the company at this time.
“The Coliseum would like to thank its audiences, participants, sponsors, partners, funders, patrons, industry colleagues and friends for their support over many years.”
If you wish to attend Tuesday's meeting, please register here: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/events/save-oldham-coliseum-public-meeting
Header Image: Paula Lane in 'Road' at Oldham Coliseum (Image - Chris Payne)