The Council say the new theatre will provide a more modern, accessible venue for performers and audiences from Oldham and beyond.
After Oldham Coliseum Theatre announced this month that it will be forced to close its doors ‘for good’ at the end of March, the Arts Council and local authority have been working to establish a new provision for arts and culture in the borough.
Proposals include a new 300 to a 350-seat auditorium, a smaller 120-seat studio, enhanced back-stage facilities, additional education, event and rehearsal spaces, and better front-of-house facilities including bar and café areas.
The new venue will cost the Council £24m.
Oldham Council will reconvene next Monday to make a final decision, and will also formally accept £1.845m from Arts Council England to help fund ‘cultural activities’ in the borough while the new theatre is built.
Plans are expected to be submitted this summer.
The proposals have been developed by members of the current Oldham Coliseum Board and other cultural organisations, with support from the Arts Council.
Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “After the really sad news from the Coliseum in recent weeks, it’s great to see such a positive step forward for the future of arts and culture here in Oldham.
“It’s so exciting to see what our theatre will look like and how architects have translated the plans we’ve worked up with our partners for a brilliant new space, in the heart of our emerging cultural quarter.
“This fantastic new theatre will offer performers, staff, and audiences a great experience as well as revitalising our cultural offer, creating jobs and adding to the buzz of a vibrant town centre where people want to live, work and visit.
“Like nearly everyone else in Oldham, I was devastated to hear the Coliseum proposes to close the doors for good. This makes it all the more important that our plans for a new theatre continue at pace, and we do still hope there can be a role for the Coliseum in the future.
“It was always the plan that the Coliseum would leave Fairbottom Street and take performances on the road to maintain and build audiences while we built the new theatre. The current building is at the end of its life, and performers, staff and audiences deserve better.
“We have a fantastic future for arts and performance here in our new theatre, building on our fantastic arts heritage, which the Coliseum and cultural partners have been integral to designing.”
The theatre, designed in conjunction with the Coliseum and cultural partners has drawn in a range of expertise, including independent benchmarking against similar theatres in other places, to come up with plans for the new venue, near the current library and Gallery Oldham.
It was intended to be a future home for the Coliseum, and they have worked in partnership on designs until their recent announcement that they propose to close at the end of March 2023 after being unsuccessful in retaining funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).
In November 2022, ACE announced the Coliseum had been unsuccessful in retaining its status and funding as a National Portfolio Organisation, who deemed it ‘high risk’ and referenced concerns about the theatre’s financial management, leadership and governance.
This accounted for around a third of the Coliseum’s funding.
Oldham Council claims that with ACE, it has supported the Coliseum since the announcement as they worked through their challenges to re-work their programme and find a workable way forward.
Recognising the love and loyalty that theatregoers have for the Oldham Coliseum name and history, Oldham Council say they are continuing conversations with the Coliseum Board to try and retain some of the artistic legacy.