Oldham Coliseum responds to Arts Council England NPO Funding cut

Oldham Coliseum Theatre was hopeful, that as Oldham is a listed as a ‘Levelling Up for Culture’ place, the theatre would retain the support of Arts Council England (ACE) as a National Portfolio Organisation delivering their Let’s Create strategy.  However the Coliseum’s application to remain in the Portfolio from 2023-2026 was unsuccessful.


The theatre applied for £615,182 a year over the three years, totalling £1,845,546. Having been funded by ACE for decades, the Coliseum’s current business model relied on this funding, and as such the theatre is having to look again at how it will move forward.  The Coliseum’s Executive and Senior Management teams are working on this as a matter of urgency but having received this news only last Friday, the theatre does not yet have all the answers.


In the meantime, the theatre is preparing to open its award-winning pantomime this weekend – this year is Robin Hood – and announcing 2023’s pantomime with tickets going on sale on Saturday 12 November - the opening day of Robin Hood - as is the theatre’s tradition.



Artistic Director Chris Lawson says: “We are determined to continue delivering our programme of shows, learning and opportunities as much as possible and we are surveying the options available to us. Our sincere thanks go to our peers, artists that we have worked with from across the UK and further afield and our amazing audiences for their very vocal support. Rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to help the Coliseum thrive even under the most difficult of circumstances.

“We are currently in tech for our annual pantomime which is the highlight of the year for so many of our audiences. Come and spend a few hours with us this festive season and celebrate the Coliseum’s phenomenal contribution to Oldham and the wider theatre ecology.”



Chief Executive Susan Wildman adds: “For all those who have asked what they can do to help, the message is simple: please continue to support us financially or in whatever way you can.  Buy a ticket and come and see the great work that we make.  Please give a donation when you book.  Think about how your business can work with us.”

“We understand the pressures that ACE faces in supporting as many organisations as possible and we thank them for all their financial support over many years. The theatre remains sincerely grateful for the support of Oldham Council, all its funders, sponsors, partners, and of course audiences and participants, particularly given the current financial climate and the pressures facing everyone in the UK at this time.”



The Coliseum has been at the heart of Oldham since 1885; it is the last surviving professional theatre in the borough and one of only 32 regularly producing theatres in England. The theatre is an Arts and Educational charity supporting the communities of Oldham, artists and, of course, entertaining audiences.


In the time since the Coliseum reopened on 24 June 2021, following the Covid-19 lockdowns, the theatre has:

  • Staged over 400 performances with 67,000 people seeing a show at the Coliseum
  • Produced five plays and welcomed nine visiting companies
  • Toured two productions to Lancaster, Cumbria and Yorkshire and made its Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut
  • Worked with 948 young people, 825 adults and 1,776 community members and families
  • Worked with 4,152 students in schools and 374 students in Higher Education settings
  • Welcomed 367 people to 17 workshops, mixers and performances for its annual Cultivate festival for theatre makers
  • Worked with eight local South Asian community groups to present the inaugural Khushi festival of happiness, and welcomed 1500 people to 26 events and four exhibitions over three days.
  • Run two Teaching Theatre pathways courses for NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training) young people, teaching transferrable backstage theatre skills, with five successful Bronze Arts Awards gained and another three in progress
  • Run two Get Started with Theatre courses with The Prince’s Trust, working with 35 young people
  • Won the UK Pantomime Association Award for Best Costume Design for 2021’s pantomime Aladdin, and received nominations for the UK Pantomime Association Awards for Best Principal Boy and Best Set Design, and the Asian Media Award for Best Stage Production for the September 2021 production of Love N Stuff.



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