Amidst the backdrop of a 138-year-old theatre, once graced by the legendary likes of Charlie Chaplin and Minnie Driver, a spirited community, bolstered by the support of actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and celebrated writer Ian Kershaw, refuses to let the curtains fall on the Oldham Coliseum Theatre.
Their determination has been bolstered by a groundbreaking Building Condition Survey that challenges preconceived notions about the theatre’s condition, offering a glimmer of hope that this cultural gem can rise from the ashes.
Contradictory Building Condition Survey Results Challenge Council’s Assessment
In what could be a pivotal turn of events, a recent Building Condition Survey, conducted by Independent Surveyors PLANN and commissioned by the Oldham Coliseum Trust, contradicts earlier assessments that claimed the historic theatre was “in a poor state of repair” and “no longer fit for purpose.”
This comprehensive inspection, rather, reveals that the 138-year-old theatre is in excellent working order and could be reopened with a relatively modest capital cost of just £150,000.
Significantly, the survey unveils that the cherished auditorium is in need of no repairs, rekindling hope for the iconic venue.
Oldham Coliseum’s Rich History and Community Connections
The Oldham Coliseum Theatre has a storied history, originally constructed as a circus and later transformed into a theatre that has hosted an array of celebrated performers, including legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Minnie Driver, Ralph Fiennes, and Sian Philips.
Over the years, it has established deep roots within the local community, welcoming various groups, including the Young People’s and Elders’ Groups, Roma Connections, Chai Women, and Khushi, an annual festival celebrating the South Asian communities in Oldham.
Uncertain Future: The New Theater Proposal’s Impact on Coliseum
The fate of the Oldham Coliseum Theatre hangs in the balance due to a proposal to construct a new theatre in the town centre.
While this proposal raises concerns about practicality and sustainability as a business model, it specifically threatens the Coliseum’s viability as a producing theatre.
The proposed theatre features a smaller stage, significantly fewer seats, no fly tower, and limited wing space, all of which could compromise the future of the much-loved annual panto, a vital revenue source for the Coliseum.
Additionally, worries have arisen about accessibility issues, including limited lift space and the absence of an adult changing room, a requirement for public buildings.
A Vision for Preservation and Revitalisation
Despite these challenges, the determination to preserve the original Coliseum Auditorium and restore it as a producing theatre remains unwavering.
Affectionately known as ‘The Rep,’ the theatre holds historic and cultural significance and provides substantial employment opportunities for artists.
Call for Positive Dialogue and Collective Action
In response to recent developments, a call has been issued for an open, constructive conversation among local campaigners, artists, Oldham Council, Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd, and various funding bodies.
The goal is to preserve and breathe new life into the auditorium, extending it to include an expanded foyer, backstage area, and café-bar space while creating studios and rehearsal spaces to ensure its vibrancy for the next 138 years.
Renowned Figures Rally Behind the Cause
The collective of artists, community leaders, and concerned individuals supporting this cause is vast and includes an impressive list of prominent personalities within the entertainment industry.
The Fight Continues: A Vision for a Thriving Oldham Coliseum Theatre
The battle to preserve and revitalise the Oldham Coliseum Theatre is far from over, as a resounding call for a reimagined and thriving theatre echoes through the community.
The Oldham Coliseum Theatre, with its rich history and significant community connections, faces a pivotal moment in its existence.
The Building Condition Survey results challenge the notion that it is beyond repair, and a passionate group of supporters is determined to secure its future, appealing to local authorities and funding bodies to join in preserving this beloved cultural gem.
The collective of artists, community leaders, and concerned individuals rallying behind this cause is vast and includes:
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Ian Kershaw, Dame Sian Philips, Dame Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Sir Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton CBE, Jim Carter OBE, Dame Maureen Lipman, Christopher Eccleston, Maxine Peake, Brigit Forsyth, Sophie Thompson, Paul Hilton, Anastasia Hille, Sir Ian McKellen, Suranne Jones, Indira Varma, Siobhan Finneran, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Gleaves, Jim Cartwright, Jonathan Harvey, Sue Johnston, Barbara Knox MBE, Rufus Norris, Sarah Frankcom, Dominic Cooke CBE, Matthew Warchus, Marianne Elliot OBE, Nick Sidi, Jason Watkins, Edward Fox, Emilia Fox, Freddie Fox, Joanna David, Matthew Dunster, Toby Jones, Barrie Rutter, Shobna Gulati DL, Amanda Holden, Sue Nicholls, Helen Worth MBE, Jimmi Harkishan, Sally Dynevor, Antony Cotton MBE, Mina Anwar, David Neilson, Tony Gardner, Sally Ann Matthews, Sue Devaney, Con O’Neill, Les Dennis, Carla Henry, Sally Carman, Joe Duttine, Nicola Stephenson, Noreen Kershaw, Lynda Rooke, Christine Bottomley, John Henshaw, Colin Snell, Andy Hay, Jane Hazlegrove, Isobel Middleton, Kevin McMonagle, Raz Shaw, Lawrence Till, Lindsay Williams, Kenneth Alan Taylor, Judith Barker, Esh Alladi, David Fleeshman, Sue Jenkins, Susan Twist, Joyce Branagh, Grant Archer, Rebekkah Harrison, Joe Alessi, Sushil Chudasama, Mark Chatterton, Naomi Radcliffe, Annie Wallace, Caroline Clegg, Clara Darcy, Carla Mendoca, Eric Potts, Rupert Hill, Jenny Platt ~ all of whom signed a letter of support in The Stage this week.