The future of one of Greater Manchester’s oldest theatre’s hangs by a thread after management were forced this week into scrapping all its productions until further notice.
The move was made by management at the Oldham Coliseum, who will jettison the remainder of its its Spring/Summer performances, after March26, 2023.
The move was made in response to the rejection by Arts Council England (ACE) of a £1.845m three-year bid by the theatre, which was made as part of a Levelling Up initiative.
The theatre’s Shelly Ramsdale said that it was with “great regret” that it would cancel its productions, which would include the 2023/2024 pantomime Sleeping Beauty
Shelly explained: “Following the news last November that the Coliseum would no longer be part of ACE national portfolio from April 1 2023,the theatre’s board of trustees and senior leadership team have been working hard to find a solution to this reduction in funding.
“The theatre put the pantomime on sale in November and announced the Spring-Summer season in early December with the best possible intentions, while still exploring options that may have enabled the continuation of the programme.
“However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the season as planned. We are working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to honour agreements with artists and producing partners.”
Only time will tell if the theatre, which spawned the early careers of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Ralph Fiennes, Minnie Driver and Stan Laurel, will ever reopen.
The community based theatre, also 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 (Elsie Tanner), Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre Barlow), William Roache (Ken Barlow), Barbara Knox (Rita Sullivan) and Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy).
Even today it works with hundreds of disadvantaged youngsters from Oldham keen to work hard to gain their first experiences and encourages them to take their first faltering steps treading the boards.
Shelly adds: “It has been an incredibly difficult decision to cancel the programme of events and we understand the disappointment this will undoubtedly cause.
“The Coliseum asks audiences to be patient whilst staff work through each refund transaction manually.”
“All events at the Coliseum until 26 March will go ahead as planned. Ticket holders for all other events will be refunded over the coming weeks.”