Oldham forges ahead with £24m replacement Coliseum
Plans for a theatre at the heart of the town’s emerging cultural quarter have been submitted after the original venue was forced to shut down when funding dried up.
The former Oldham Coliseum closed down earlier this year despite a spirited campaign to save it. In the background, Oldham Council was already working up plans for a £24m replacement venue, plans for which have now been lodged.
Proposals include a main auditorium seating more than 300 people, a 120-seat studio theatre, an education suite, and all-day café bar areas, which can also be used as additional performance spaces.
Open from morning into the evening, it is hoped the new Coliseum would also provide a boost to Oldham’s night-time economy.
The theatre, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, would be constructed on Greaves Street in Oldham town centre, close to the Old Library and Gallery Oldham, on the site of the former post office, museum, and Friends’ Meeting House.
Oldham Council has pencilled in a 2026 completion date for the project, which is being led by Oldham Coliseum Theatre Limited, the company that operates the venue.
Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, said the project is one of her “top priorities”.
“I know how important it is to the people who live here and visit the town,” she said.
“We are absolutely committed to working with cultural organisations across Oldham, including the new Coliseum board, for the good of producing theatre in the borough. Oldham has such a fantastic heritage of theatre and production spanning back decades, so it’s important we continue this for future generations.”
Shah added that the replacement venue will offer much more than just plays and performances.
“It will be a place that encourages people to come together with friends and family to get creative, socialise with one another and celebrate the arts,” she said.
“I personally can’t wait to see our new theatre throw open its doors.”
The planning submission for the Coliseum follows news that Oldham Council was successful in its proposal to Arts Council England to secure funding to deliver a cultural programme of events in the town over the next three years.
Oldham Coliseum Theatre will receive £450,000 from this funding to specifically produce, commission, create, deliver, and develop a new business model.
Oldham Council also recently announced plans for a new public space and performance square within Oldham’s Cultural Quarter.
Located in the centre of the proposed new theatre, the library and the Old Library, the space will be able to hold an outdoor stage and will also be adaptable to suit activities such as outdoor arts classes and theatre performances.
Duncan Craig, chair of trustees at Oldham Coliseum Theatre, said: “This is yet another exciting step forward in a journey that I feel now we’re all making together – that’s the council, the Coliseum and both Oldhamers and Greater Manchester theatre-goers.
“Our organisation’s commitment to producing and programming theatre is as alive as ever and the fact that we’re at the stage of submitting the plans for our new home really helps us begin to imagine the opening nights of future performances.”
To learn more about the project, search for planning reference FUL/351543/23 on Oldham Council’s planning portal. Paul Butler Associates is advising on planning.
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