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Oldham Coliseum issue shock cancellation announcement as withdrawal of Arts Council England funding causes crisis

The future of Oldham Coliseum Theatre is in doubt after the withdrawal of Arts Council England funding has resulted in the cancellation of their summer programme.

The cancellations include the Spring-Summer programme and the 2023-24 pantomime Sleeping Beauty. 

The loss of funding has caused a black hole they are finding impossible to fill.

A statement from the Oldham Coliseum called it an ‘incredibly difficult decision’.

We reported last November that The Oldham Coliseum had missed out on the vital funding from Arts Council England.

The shock news has been blamed on the withdrawal of funding from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 1 April 2023.

Despite the Government naming the Coliseum as a ‘Levelling up for Culture’ venue, their application for funding was turned down.

The theatre applied for £615,182 a year over the three years, totalling £1,845,546.

Since the Coliseum found out they were losing these funds, the Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership Team had been working hard behind the scenes  to find a solution.

However, it seems like nothing could be done.

I Love Manchester’s Theatre Writer Glenn Meads said: “The Oldham Coliseum is so much more than a theatre. It belongs to the community.

“They meet the criteria for levelling up and then some, as they involve local people and provide them with opportunities they may have not had, otherwise.

“Every time I have attended a show here, the audience has been warm and appreciative and you feel that love for the building and the wonderful staff.

“This ‘Hunger Games’ style funding is damaging and divisive and it makes no sense. It means that institutions are forced to beg.

“Their programme and their local work in the community should speak for itself. I am gutted by today’s announcement, as a patron and reviewer who loves going there.

“I joined as a member in the hope we could keep them going. My heart goes out to the staff and the community of Oldham, as this is more than a building.

“It is an all encompassing hub and they welcomed everyone with open arms.

“I hope that someone sits up and takes notice, as this theatre and the staff deserve far more than a box ticking attitude towards funding. They need to stay open.

“Oldham and the local economy there will not be the same without them.”

The theatre had tried the early sale of pantomime tickets through November and also announced their Spring-Summer season in early December in a bid to keep the Coliseum funded.

In the new year it seems like their financial situation had become apparent, and was not sustainable to keep the iconic Oldham theatre running this summer.

The theatre have said they are working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to honour currently agreements with artists and producing partners.

Previously announced productions at the Coliseum that are now cancelled include its musical Little Mermaid and touring shows such as Abigail’s Party from London Classic Theatre, Around the World in 80 Days from York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre’s Noughts & Crosses.

Despite the bad news, all events at the Coliseum until 26 March will go ahead as planned, with ticket holders for all other events will be refunded over the coming weeks.

If you have paid for tickets using a debit or credit card this will be refunded directly onto your card, and if you have paid for tickets using cash the Box Office team will be in touch to arrange an alternate refund method.

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.

They have asked for patience as they process any refunds.

The history of Oldham Coliseum Theatre has its roots in Victorian England, making it one of the oldest theatres in Britain still in operation today.

The Theatre has a rich history, with many a famous face cutting their teeth on their stage.

Just a few of the names who have performed there are: Charlie Chaplain, Stan Laurel, Ralph Fiennes and Minnie Driver.

It will be a tragic loss to Greater Manchester.

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