Welcome to July's update from myself on behalf of the Board at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Before I update you on recent activity and future plans, I'd like to begin this update by reflecting on the past as the full redundancy process draws to an end.  

Many of you know that we said goodbye and thank you to the majority of the Coliseum team at the end of June. Their departure and the previous months' leavers happened following a collective consultation process that Michelle Hollewyn at Holla HR supported the team through. The consultation occurred after recognising the high risk of the organisation becoming insolvent following its unsuccessful bid to Arts Council England (ACE) to remain one of its National Portfolio Organisations (NPO). The unfortunate outcome of the consultation was the closing of the building on Fairbottom Street and staff redundancies.

The Coliseum staff carried themselves with such professionalism and dignity throughout the whole period, and I have the utmost respect for and gratitude to them all, especially in how they took care of each other. Their compassion for colleagues shone through when, tragically, their friend and colleague Lesley Chenery passed away suddenly. A theatre stalwart whose long association with the theatre as Head of Production and then General Manager is well known. Anyone who met Lesley will know how much she loved this organisation and the people she worked with. She won't be forgotten.

With only CEO/Artistic Director Chris Lawson and Production Manager Adam Gent remaining, the two have been completing tasks that will enable us to hand the keys back to our landlords, Oldham Council, at the end of the month. We will say our final goodbyes at the end of August as Adam and Chris depart, and whilst I have the opportunity, I would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to both. I'll not forget what Adam and Chris have done for the Coliseum over many years; thanks especially to Chris over these tough last six months as the leader of the Coliseum. But I cannot end this section without saying a huge congratulations to Chris on his new role as Director of Producing and Programming at Edinburgh's iconic Traverse Theatre. We couldn't be prouder.  

I also want to say a special thank you to Peter Wakefield, who kindly joined us as Finance Consultant and supported the organisation and staff through the closure period. Peter was previously Head of Finance at the theatre between 2002 - 2016, along with three further periods in the role. His work during the last few months has been invaluable.


As you may have seen, last week, it was announced that Oldham Council was successful in its proposal to ACE to secure funding to deliver a cultural programme across the borough between now and the opening of the new building in 2026. You can read more about this on ACE's website here. As I mentioned in my May update, we worked closely with Oldham Council on supporting the development of their proposal, and now Oldham Council has confirmed that Oldham Coliseum Theatre will receive £450,000 from this funding, plus a re-commitment of the grant award of £138,000, annually for the next three years. This money is to specifically produce, commission, create, deliver, and develop our new business model towards the opening of the new building.

We are extremely grateful to Oldham Council for this award as it will now allow us to continue as an organisation, focusing on our charitable objectives as a producing theatre. However, it is important for me to acknowledge this will be in a very different model to how we previously delivered our work, including what was delivered in the Fairbottom Street building. Firstly, as an organisation without a building, we will need to deliver performances in non-theatre spaces, and with less income than we had, we'll have to present work less frequently to begin with. But, at the core of our work over the next three years, we have our eye on the development of a long-term plan to ensure we build a new, stronger and, very importantly, sustainable foundation as our tenancy in the new building begins.

To deliver this new model, we have engaged a number of freelance professionals and agencies until the end of 2023 to undertake various tasks and pieces of work. 

Firstly, we warmly welcome Lauren Clancy, who has joined us as Interim Chief Executive. Originally from the North West, Lauren was previously Executive Director of The Bush Theatre and will lead our work with the Council and the Cultural Partnership Board in the development of the new theatre, our interim theatre and arts offer and the right structure to deliver it.

Secondly, we have engaged Sue Fletcher to support communications. Sue was Head of Marketing and Communications at the theatre between 2015 – 2018 before going freelance, and she's looking forward to working back in Oldham and helping us to share with you what is happening. We're also incredibly grateful to Sarah Hughes for taking on finance work and Michelle Hollewyn at Holla HR Limited for supporting us with all our people tasks.

We are also hoping to be able to announce some new Trustees in my next update. If you are considering becoming a Trustee, please look at the 'Essential Trustee' guide. If you feel you have the skills, time, commitment and enthusiasm to join our Board, then please email me at with your CV and a covering letter detailing why you want to become a Trustee and what skills you will bring, and let's take it from there.


Finally, I promised myself if we were successful in receiving funding, I would ensure Oldham Coliseum Theatre would bring some performance to Oldham this year. So, I'm delighted to let you know that in August, you can take part in Secret Summer - a free audio adventure for the whole family. Oldham-based Stand & Be Counted Theatre Company’s Secret Summer will take place on Saturday 26 August in Alexandra Park and Sunday 27 August in Dunwood Park, Shaw. Check our website and social media for more details soon.

We are also developing plans for the rest of the year by building on existing and developing new connections with organisations, including Oldham Theatre Workshop and the Women's Chai Project, I hope we can say more soon, but to keep up to date with our latest news, please sign up for our newsletter here.


I'm now in the position to be able to confirm that the two independent reviews we commissioned that focused on revealing the facts of the status of Fairbottom Street, and the root causes of the unsuccessful bid to ACE to remain one of their NPO, will be published in August.

In my May update, I announced our agreement with the Council that we will become the anchor tenant of the new theatre due to open in 2026. The more we talk with Oldham Council, ACE, and other stakeholders, the more we can realise our collective ambitions for a producing theatre in Oldham.

I was so pleased to meet Coliseum supporters at the launch of the public consultation at Gallery Oldham in June. We look forward to working with Oldham Council, the architects' Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and other key partners to respond to your feedback. If you didn't see the plans, they are outlined by the Oldham Times.


I'm aware this update features a lot of information, and I've tried to ensure it's as succinct as possible. I hope that with each of my updates, you can see how committed we are, as a board, to transparency, and we really believe this will help the theatre move forward. We still have a way to go until we move into our new home in 2026, and I'm grateful for the continuing messages of support you've given us as a board since we took over.

I hope this update reassures you there is very much a future for Oldham Coliseum Theatre, and I hope you will join me in creating this future – we cannot do this without you. I've heard loud and clear that a future with a producing theatre in Oldham is a must. I agree and I want a theatre we can all be proud of. 

I promise it remains our number one objective to make that happen.

Until next time, have a great month.

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