Oldham Coliseum will go dark due to 100% Arts Council England funding cut

All events from late March cancelled at the theatre, which is in a priority location for the government’s Levelling Up fund

Oldham Coliseum has cancelled all of its forthcoming events from late March onwards as a result of its 100% funding cut from Arts Council England (ACE).

The cancellations, which include a spring-summer programme featuring a stage adaptation of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake and the Christmas pantomime Sleeping Beauty, were announced on Tuesday. The theatre will go dark from 26 March with no current indication of when it might reopen.

Oldham is a priority place for the government’s Levelling Up fund and one of the north-west’s major employers of the theatrical workforce. The Coliseum’s artistic director Chris Lawson (who also recently became its chief executive) said in November that the loss of funding, after decades of ACE support, had caused a “massive shock felt throughout the building”.

The Coliseum had applied for £615,182 a year over three years, but was unsuccessful and will no longer be a National Portfolio Organisation from 1 April. 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 and Around the World in 80 Days from York Theatre Royal. Ticketholders for all events will be refunded over the coming weeks.

A statement from the Coliseum said that the board of trustees and the senior leadership team “have been working hard to find a solution” to the removal of its ACE funding. Tickets for the pantomime went on sale in November and further productions for 2023 were announced the following month “with the best possible intentions”, the statement continued. “However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the season as planned. We are working with ACE and Oldham council to honour agreements with artists and producing partners.”

The Coliseum dates back to 1885 and is the last surviving professional theatre in the borough and one of only 32 regularly producing theatres in England. A new purpose-built home for the theatre has long been planned.

Making the cancellations “has been an incredibly difficult decision”, the theatre said. “We understand the disappointment this will undoubtedly cause.”

A spokesperson for the Coliseum added that the theatre is to enter a period of consultation that will last no less than 30 days, and then when the consultation has been completed the theatre will confirm what happens next. The start date for the process has not yet been confirmed.


Chris Wiegand Stage editor

The GuardianTramp

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