Message from Duncan Craig OBE, Chair of Trustees (29.08.23)

Welcome to the August edition of my monthly blog update. I really enjoy writing these as it gives me a chance to stop for a moment and reflect on where we’ve come from since we took over Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd in March 2023 to where we are now - 5 months later.

August marks a really important moment for us all. Firstly, we say a formal goodbye to Chris Lawson and Adam Gent as the final part of the redundancy process ends. I could not be more grateful for what they have both done and, as Chair, I will forever be in debt to them for how their attention to detail made the whole process from the end of March until now so smooth. I know our paths will cross again and on behalf of all the board, I thank them for everything.

As I mentioned in previous updates, in April this year we commissioned two independent reports to give us, as a new board and you as audiences, clarity to what transpired before we took on the task of being trustees.

Specialist theatre consultants, Plann, were commissioned by us to independently review the survey report undertaken by Oldham Council in February 2023 and carry out a site visit, which happened in May 2023. The purpose of this was to separate out fact from fiction for us, a new board. I am incredibly grateful to Jack Tilbury and the team at Plann for the attention to detail and fact checking that gives us a clear and accurate report.

The conclusion of the Plann report is clear, the building on Fairbottom Street is not beyond repair and with investment could be used again. So, the question that a few of you have asked is will we re-open the building? The straightforward and short answer is no. The slightly longer and more complicated answer is that whilst our actions mean that Oldham Coliseum Theatre Ltd is solvent, we have been left in a financial position where we’re unable to undertake repairs, pay the bills, re-staff and maintain staffing of an organisation, and keep a theatre running. Whilst we announced a financial investment from Oldham Council in July, those funds are classed in Charities as ‘restricted funds’, which means that they can only be used for the specific purposes: to make theatre and creative arts. Click here to access the Plann Report

We also commissioned Action Together, the VCSE infrastructure organisation for Oldham, to undertake a desktop review of previous reports, documents and undertake interviews with key stakeholders and staff to help us better understand how the organisation got to the point of collapse.

I am so grateful to Liz Windsor-Welsh, Chief Executive of Action Together, who cleared so much off her desk to personally undertake this important piece of work. The report gives a clear indication of many of the factors that led to the organisation being at immediate risk of insolvency, and whilst this report is looking at the period before we as a new board joined the Coliseum, it makes several recommendations that we, as the new board, will now adopt. I can say with absolute certainty and 100% commitment that we will carry out all of the actions in the recommendations and I will report back to you on our progress. Click here to download the Action Together Report.

Being a Trustee is a privilege and an honour, but it is also a role to be taken seriously and worked hard at. Yes, of course, a Trustee is a volunteer who gives their time for free and often alongside their ‘day job’, but that has never meant that I don’t take my legal responsibilities of trusteeship seriously. As a life-long theatre goer, being the Chair of Oldham Coliseum Theatre is a true honour and, along with my fellow Trustees, we will always ensure that we and the organisation complies with the Charity Governance Code, a tool endorsed by the Charity Commission, and carry out all our legal and moral obligations to act in the best interests of the charity, manage the charity’s resources responsibly, and action with reasonable care and skill – three key legal duties of any Trustee.


Since stepping onto the board we have been advertising Trustee recruitment, specifically aiming our attention to finding local Oldham residents to join us in re-building the organisation. So, it gives me the greatest of pleasure to be able to announce three new Trustees to the board:

  • Martina Murphy (Deputy Chair) - started her journey into the arts at the Oldham Music Centre, then to Oldham Theatre Workshop, and went on to study performing arts at Oldham College. She has led arts and creative organisations, was part of the 2017 Hull City of Culture team, LEAP Dance Festival and was Arts Programme Director for the British Council.
  • Kyle Wilcock - known to Coliseum audiences as the Front of House Manager and currently a welcoming face at Aviva Studios. This is Kyle’s first ever Trusteeship and we are so happy to be able to begin a journey to ‘grow our own’.
  • Jo Moss – has a long standing relationship with the Coliseum having joined the organisation on a YTS scheme in the late 80s until leaving the theatre in 2007 to continue her casting career with Coronation Street and Emmerdale, where she remains today.

Building a board is hard and so I cannot stress how brilliant it is that we have been able to attract such skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable individuals that want to play a part in rebuilding the organisation. However in my role as Chair, I have to ensure that the board has the right balance of skills and knowledge and is representative of the community it serves. We’re not there yet so recruitment is ongoing, and I have asked Action Together for some help in this task. If you are interested in an informal conversation on the requirements of being a trustee, contact me via email at and we’ll take it from there.


Over the Bank Holiday weekend and working with Stand & Be Counted Theatre, we mounted the first co-production of our new chapter, and what a success it was!

On Saturday afternoon, me and my husband plugged our headphones in and took the Secret Summer tour around Alexandra Park. I found myself becoming completely immersed in the stories and in the games (I even won a unicorn sticker on the hoopla thanks to some help from the dragonfly!). It was so much fun, really captivating, and in arriving at the court with the beetles, very emotive. I have to be honest, immersive theatre and events hasn’t normally been my thing, but I can’t deny how much this got me. Well done to everyone involved, especially JT, Rosie and the team at SBC Theatre.

I was also really honoured to represent Oldham Coliseum Theatre recently at Oldham Theatre Workshop’s production of Three Times Table at Queen Elizabeth Hall and Dare to Know Theatre’s production of Young Love at 53Two. Both these organisations have had strong links with the Coliseum over the years and I am proud to say that openness, collaboration and partnership working will be key values of the organisation going forward.

We are close to being able to announce some exciting plans, so make sure you sign up to our newsletter and watch this space!


Like last month’s update, this one features a lot of information. But the truth is there has been so much information to share and shifting sands mean situations change moment by moment and sometimes quicker than you have the ability to keep up with.

But whilst the information flows, and may make uncomfortable reading for some, I truly believe that with transparency across absolutely everything we can focus on building a strong future. 

Lots of you have told me directly that you want to move forward, you want to see Oldham Coliseum producing theatre, you want to see communities reconnected to the organisation, you want to put the theatre firmly on the Greater Manchester cultural map… well that’s what I want too and I can confidently speak for the board in saying that’s what we all want.

Ensuring we learn from the past is vital and I will continue to share how we are doing that. But for now  it’s time for us, as a board, to fully face the future, and I invite you all to come with us - and ask you take us with you.

Thank you for all your support, until my next update, have a great month.

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