• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

Oldham Council 'recommits' to new £24.5m theatre, originally billed as a new home for Oldham Coliseum, but venue will not be ready until 2026.

An artists impression of the future theatre in Oldham Coliseum
An artist's impression of the future theatre in Oldham

Oldham Council

Oldham Council is pushing ahead with a delayed project to build a new theatre for the town, using funding from Arts Council England (ACE) to help develop it, Arts Professional can reveal.

The local authority says the venue, which had been earmarked as the new home for Oldham Coliseum, will cost £24.5m and be ready in 2026.

Details of progress on the project come just a week after Oldham Coliseum announced it will close permanently after losing regular funding from ACE.


Oldham Council has said it hopes there can be a role for the Coliseum in the new venue, but has added that, alongside ACE, it is "confident in the ability to form a strong operating and business model for a producing theatre without the Coliseum should that be required".

"Like nearly everyone else in Oldham I was devastated to hear the Coliseum proposes to close the doors for good," said Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council.

"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 this future."

Arts Professional previously reported that ACE harboured concerns about plans to relocate the Coliseum to new premises when taking the decision to cut it from its National Portfolio amid a lack of progress on the project.

Decade-long saga

Proposals for the council to develop a new theatre in Oldham, to replace the 135-year old building housing the Coliseum, have been in circulation for the last 10 years.

In its current incarnation, the plan to redevelop and extend a former post office as part of a wider Cultural Quarter site forms part of the council’s Making Space For Live Performance project, one of five elements of the council’s Oldham Town Investment plan.

Plans to redevelop another town centre site at a cost of £27m were dropped by Oldham Council in 2018, after being deemed too expensive.

In a statement released today, Oldham Council said it will "recommit to building the new theatre" and is holding a meeting of its Cabinet next Monday (27 February) to rubberstamp its latest plan of action.

However, details of how the work will be funded are yet to be confirmed. To date, Oldham Council has set aside £6.1m to the project - part of a total of £24.4m it received from successfully bidding for cash from the government’s Towns Fund in 2021.

Minutes from Oldham Council’s Cabinet meeting in November 2021 stated the remainder of the estimated project cost, which at that time was estimated at between £16 and £20m, would be made up by council resources and match funding.

The latest cost figure of £24.5m revealed by Oldham Council indicates the local authority still has to find around £18.4m.

Today’s announcement by the council follows delays to the project to redevelop the post office site. A planning application for the work was due to have been submitted by the end of last year, but is yet to materialise.

An artist's impression of the future theatre in Oldham. Credit: Oldham Council

Under the latest vision, the new theatre will include a 300 to 350-seat auditorium, a 120-seat studio, enhanced back-stage facilities, additional education, event and rehearsal spaces and improved front-of house facilities including a bar and café areas.

Submission of a planning application has now been scheduled for the summer.

Financial support from ACE 

Following the decision to remove Oldham Coliseum from the National Portfolio, ACE revealed that it had ringfenced the £1.845m it would have given the theatre to Oldham Council for "investment into Oldham’s arts and culture sector".

A report compiled in advance of next week's meeting of Oldham Council's Cabinet reveals ACE wants at least part of the money to be put towards delivering the new theatre.

Conditions of the funding include: engaging with communities and stakeholders in the development and delivery of a new theatre; developing an appropriate leadership and governance structure for the new theatre; creating a programme of performance that tests new approaches to programming, creative learning, talent development and audience development; and meeting the outcomes and principles of the Arts Council’s ‘Let’s Create’ strategy.

In a conversation with Arts Professional earlier this month, ACE Director for the North Sarah Maxfield said the Arts Council is "very supportive" of the plans to build a new performance space.