Oldham Coliseum brings down curtain for final time with star-studded show

Venue that helped launch careers of many actors forced to close after losing £1.8m Arts Council England grant

One of Britain’s oldest theatres, the Oldham Coliseum, will close “on its own terms” on Friday night, its artistic director has said, with a star-studded final show.

The 138-year-old venue has been forced to close after losing its £1.8m government subsidy in a move decried by leading arts figures.

The Coliseum, which helped launch the careers of some of the UK’s best-known actors, is the biggest theatre outside London to lose its Arts Council England (ACE) funding from April.

The venue will bring down the curtain for the final time with a performance featuring Maxine Peake and Christopher Eccleston.

The show, Encore, will feature script-in-hand performances of scenes and songs from productions of the past decade, including I, Daniel Blake and Aladdin.

Maxine Peake, who campaigned against the closure, will star in the final show.
Maxine Peake, who campaigned against the closure, will star in the final show. Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

Chris Lawson, the chief executive and artistic director of the Coliseum, said he was feeling a mix of emotions before the closing show.

He told BBC Breakfast on Friday: “In some ways, I am pleased that we get to do tonight. If the doors are closing then it is on our terms. We will fill this auditorium with joy and togetherness.”

Lawson said the show “sold out in 30 minutes and was pulled together in just over a week by the team”. He added: “Incredible, but I think it just shows everyone’s care and love for the Coliseum.”

ACE said it would still invest £1.85m in Oldham but it would not go to the Coliseum, after expressing concerns over its maintenance and previous leadership.

Oldham council recently announced plans for a new theatre, reportedly costing £24m, which was scheduled to open in 2026.

Lawson said it was “extremely frustrating” that the funding was going elsewhere but he appreciated the money “hasn’t been fully taken away” from the area.

Kimberly Hart-Simpson, who plays Nicky Wheatley in Coronation Street, said: “I spent my youth pretty much on this street, from the bars to the Coliseum.

“It has just given me a platform to be me, to learn what kind of artist I want to be, and to see brand new plays – and be part of brand new plays as well. It is gutting today but I feel absolutely blessed to have been a part of its history.”

Oldham Coliseum is closing despite a campaign backed by unions and high-profile actors including Peake and the comedian Jason Manford.


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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