“The residents of Oldham will feel bereft today after the Coliseum’s closure, and it goes to show how vulnerable regional theatres can be.”

It is the news that many of us were dreading.

The beautiful Oldham Coliseum is set to close its doors at the end of March.

The Coliseum is staffed by people who live in Oldham, they have invested their lives into this historic building.

And we all know what makes a great building, the people who work in it.

My heart goes out to every single member of staff who has been affected by this heartbreaking decision.

Their hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed to the 1000s of satisfied theatregoers who walk through their doors. They greet you at the door and say goodbye as you leave and they cannot do enough for you.

The residents of Oldham will feel bereft today.

I attended the pantomime Robin Hood before Christmas and local families turned out in droves, and they have been doing so year after year.

It has become the annual tradition and I saw one family which featured great grandparents, through to great grandchildren; four generations all sat together in the stalls, laughing. This experience is priceless.

Over the years I have seen the work of Salford’s Shelagh DelaneyMartin McDonagh – the writer and director of the Oscar nominated film The Banshees of Inisherin, new work by local writers and Richard Cameron’s The Glee Club which feels even more poignant now due to the fact that the play focuses on a seismic change that is about to come and affect this community.

Our team of reviewers are far younger than me, yet they have warmed to this venue and loved the likes of Beryl, Jim Cartwright’s Road and When Darkness Falls.

One of them said to me: “I love going there, I always feel so welcome and I know I am going to see something of a high quality.”

A huge shout out to all the creatives who have managed to create the most marvellous sets and costumes. My own favourite was A Skull in Connemara beautifully designed by Katie Scott, complete with a graveyard consisting of huge mounds of dirt; eerie, dark and a superb rendering of the Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic and dangerous world.

This is not just a venue that puts on work by others, it produced excellent pieces of theatre and it survived following closure due to the pandemic. When it reopened, audiences returned and realised exactly what they had been missing. We all thought that we would be returning through those doors for some time to come.

I have nothing against The Factory or big ventures like it, as Greater Manchester is big enough and diverse enough for many different venues.

But I will miss the Oldham Coliseum with all my being, as like a meal at your favourite local independent restaurant, every production here was put together with love, passion and they never stuck to a set recipe, they were also unafraid to take risks on new work.

I cannot believe that this theatre is being hung out to dry.

The money is sat there and a new venue will be many years away and there is a building and a great company which is good to go.

Oldham Council – move them into a new building if you are spending the money anyway. But the more you read, the more you feel that this was a done deal a long while back.

Today’s announcement highlights how vulnerable regional theatre can be and how important they are for local communities.

Netflix and Prime are great and have got us through lockdown but nothing beats that feeling of watching a piece of live theatre. And there is a connection to TV.

If you sat gripped to Happy Valley or you are a fan of Corrie, Sarah Lancashire began her career at the Coilseum and many Coronation Street performed here before they started working on this serial drama.

The next time you are thinking about a theatre trip, please support the smaller venues, such as 53 Two and The Hope Mill Theatre, HOME and others if you can, as well as making trips to the big ones.

I booked a while back to see Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, so I will be making one last visit to this wonderful theatre. It is only then that the magnitude of this forthcoming closure will hit me. But until then my thoughts are with the wonderful staff who have given local audiences the stuff that dreams are made of and then some, nightly since 1885.

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