Oldham Coliseum to cancel upcoming shows amid funding crisis

Oldham’s iconic Coliseum theatre has announced it is to cancel all upcoming shows and events – including its annual pantomime – as it faces a funding crisis that threatens its survival.

The Fairbottom Street theatre, one of the oldest still operating in Britain, has relied on the support of Arts Council England (ACE) to continue to stage performances, including its hugely popular Christmas pantomimes.

However in November it was revealed that the Coliseum’s application to remain in the ACE portfolio for the next three years – a major part of its business model – has been unsuccessful. It had applied for £615,182 a year to 2026, totalling more than £1.84m.

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Now, despite theatre bosses scrambling to find a solution to the funding black hole, all events and shows are being cancelled from the end of March.

A statement on behalf of the Coliseum Theatre said it was with ‘great regret’ that it was cancelling ‘all forthcoming events’ from Sunday, March 26, including the spring-summer programme and the 2023-24 pantomime Sleeping Beauty.

It added that following the news the Coliseum would no longer be part of the Arts Council England national portfolio, the board of trustees and senior leadership team had been trying to find a way of keeping the theatre afloat.

“The theatre put the pantomime on sale in November and announced the spring-summer season in early December with the best possible intentions, while still exploring options that may have enabled the continuation of the programme,” it stated.

“However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the season as planned. We are working with Arts Council England and Oldham council to honour agreements with artists and producing partners.

“It has been an incredibly difficult decision to cancel the programme of events and we understand the disappointment this will undoubtedly cause. The Coliseum asks audiences to be patient whilst staff work through each refund transaction manually.”

The previous Robin Hood pantomime at the Coliseum
(Image: Darren Robinson Photography)

All events at the Coliseum up until March 26 will go ahead as planned, and people with tickets for events after this date will be refunded over the coming weeks.

Arts Council England said it had received a ‘record-breaking’ number of applications and consequently had to make ‘difficult decisions’.

In a statement following the confirmation of its funding portfolio, ACE stated: “We really value the work of Oldham Coliseum Theatre, and have supported it through our funding programmes over a long period of time.

“We’re committed to supporting the cultural offering in Oldham, and are working with Oldham council on development opportunities for the town.”

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham