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A New Coliseum for Oldham

Chief Executive and Artistic Director Kevin Shaw and Oldham Council Leader Jean Stretton

It’s official! Oldham Coliseum Theatre will be moving to a new state-of-the-art building on Union Street in 2020.

Through Oldham Council, we’ve been approved a grant of £7.1m from Arts Council England. Alongside a future Capital fundraising contribution to the project by the Coliseum, this means we’re now on our way towards a new theatre in Oldham’s Cultural Quarter, alongside the new Heritage and Arts Centre, Gallery Oldham, Library and Lifelong Learning Centre.

The new Coliseum will be easier to get to than ever before and the building as a whole will be much more spacious and accessible, including lifts, which our current venue can’t accommodate. We’ll have a 550 seat Main Auditorium with improved sight lines and seating plus a 175 seat flexible Studio.

The new, much bigger, Studio will allow us to build upon recent work, like the popular First Break Festival of new writing, and support the development of upcoming artists and companies, which will run alongside our award-winning work on the Main Stage. It will also be a hub for our education and community work like the Teaching Theatre programme, which provides hands-on experience to young people who are not currently in work, education or training. The new building will have improved facilities for disabled audiences and better bar and foyer areas.

The current board, staff, volunteers and audiences are all custodians of a proud tradition of theatre in the town, which in the Coliseum’s case dates back to 1885.  It’s our responsibility to make a theatre that’s right for future generations, meaning in the years to come theatre in Oldham continues to thrive, grow and develop. We’re rightfully famous for the warmth of our welcome, and we will take that warmth with us, so future residents of Oldham will know that this is a theatre for absolutely everyone.”   Kevin Shaw, Chief Executive and Artistic Director

Although the Coliseum has a long history at the Fairbottom Street venue, this isn’t the first time the company has moved. Our current building was dismantled and moved plank by plank from its original home on Henshaw Street in 1887 to make way for Tommyfield Market (Learn all about the Coliseum’s history here). Our most recent refurbishments in 2012 were vital for safety reasons, but they only gave the then 127-year-old building another ten years’ lifespan.

We’re grateful to Oldham Council, Arts Council England and all of the Coliseum’s supporters for their continued belief in the theatre and the importance of our work, both on and off stage, for the communities of Oldham and further afield.

Arts, culture and heritage matter.  They can inspire education across all ages and communities, boost the local economy, and attract tourism.” – Councillor Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council

“The Coliseum does valuable work for Oldham and Saddleworth and its new home will see this work thrive and grow”Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

The new building will be designed by the award winning international architectural practice Mecanoo  – whose previous projects include Library of Birmingham and HOME Arts Centre, Manchester and whose current projects include Manchester Engineering Campus Development and the renovation of the New York Midtown Public Library.

Mecanoo, the project architects, are committed to prioritising the local supply chain throughout this project. In support of Oldham Council’s ‘Get Oldham Working’ campaign, contractors are developing an employment and skills strategy to focus on young people within the borough, improving links with local education providers and exploring the opportunity to create apprenticeships.

The Coliseum on Fairbottom Street will continue to run with a full programme of excellent theatre, learning and community activities until the move in 2020 and we’ll keep you updated on our journey to Union Street as plans start to turn into reality.

There’s a lot of work to do before then, but we’re very excited to start.