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Oldham Coliseum rescue ‘very much back on the table’

Picture: Elspeth Mary Moore

Artists and activists have celebrated a milestone in the Save the Oldham Coliseum campaign. 

Campaigners confirmed talks to restore the "cultural gem of Oldham" – the historic venue on Fairbottom Street – were "very much back on the table" after long discussions following the venue’s closure last year. 

Over pizza and a screening of ‘Our Sleeping Beauty’, an artwork about the Coliseum created by artists involved in the campaign, activists came together with council leaders and politicians at Valentino’s in Oldham town centre to mark the occasion. 

Speaking at the event, town hall leader boss Arooj Shah said: “As we speak, the council is working up proposals for how we could bring the Fairbottom Street site back to life. It’s undertaking surveys and analysis on the current building and producing plans for what a future for that building could look like. 

“We’re not in a position to make any formal announcements at this point – there is still work to do. But what I can say is that Fairbottom Street is very much back on the table as a possible future home of theatre in Oldham. Watch this space.” 

Cllr Shah promised the council would be working together with Save the Oldham Coliseum campaigners like actor Julie Hesmondhalgh to decide on the building’s future. 

Hesmondhalgh, who featured in ITV’s ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’, has been a leading voice in the campaign, which has been gathering momentum since the Coliseum’s announced its closure early last year.

An online petition started by long-term Coliseum enthusiast Charlotte Lister reached more than 15,000 signatures last week. 

And several other prominent actors including Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Emma Thompson and Christopher Eccleston have all voiced their support for the venue. 

Speaking on Wednesday, Hesmondhalgh said: “Art matters – especially in a place like Oldham. The Coliseum is a place of history, heritage, togetherness and diversity and a source of enormous civic pride. 

“The closure of the Coliseum has left a huge hole in the cultural landscape of Greater Manchester. But imagine what a good news story it would be if we could say the Panto will be back in Oldham for 2025?”

She also thanked the collaboration with the council leader and local MP Jim McMahon, who was also present, saying they had been “extremely receptive to us and having these conversations – with an eye to the future and not dwelling on the past”. 

While discussions carry on about the future of the physical theatre, the Coliseum Group is keeping the show going with a ‘pop-up venue’ currently being constructed in the Civic Centre car park. 

The 167-seater temporary structure will host a whole roster of cultural events between April and July, including a series of "free-to-attend housewarming events".  

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