Issue - meetings

Urgent Business -Investing in a New Theatre for Oldham

Meeting: 27/02/2023 - Cabinet (Item 6)

6 Urgent Business -Investing in a New Theatre for Oldham pdf icon PDF 456 KB

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Councillor Brownridge declared an other interest in Items 6 and 11 Investing in a New Theatre in Oldham, by virtue of her Council appointment as a trustee of the Coliseum Board. She left the room and took no part in the vote thereon.

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Director, Place and Economic Growth. Director of Public Health (with responsibility for Culture) and Assistant Chief Executive which provided details of the delivery of a new theatre in Oldham Town Centre.

The planned new theatre building was successful in gaining Towns Deal funding from central government in June 2021 and work had progressed significantly with detailed plans well advanced.  It was proposed that the new theatre be progressed through a further consultation ahead of submitting a planning application, and funding arrangements confirmed, including the use of Towns Deal.

Alongside this, Oldham had been offered access to £1.845 million of Arts Council funding to provide performance, arts and culture across the borough over the next three-years. In order to access this funding, Oldham Council had a requirement to indicate its acceptance of this funding and to recommit to the development of a new theatre for the borough.

Oldham Coliseum began as a circus on Henshaw Street dating back to 1885, known then as the Colosseum. Built in 1887, the current theatre building based on Fairbottom Street, off Yorkshire Street, in Oldham Town Centre, had been used as a music hall and a cinema, before reopening in 1938, as the Oldham Repertory Theatre.  The Oldham Rep lasted until 1978 when it was reconstituted as the Oldham Coliseum Theatre.

The current Fairbottom Street building, the adjacent office building and car park are leased by the Coliseum from the Council on a rent-free arrangement.

In 2012 Oldham Council invested £2 million into the Fairbottom Street theatre, upgrading audience areas, replacing seating, improving heating and updating ventilation. However, even with this level of investment, both the Coliseum Board and Management Team, and Oldham Council agreed that the current building could not meet the long-term needs of the theatre: it’s performers, staff and its audiences deserved better.

Problems with accessibility, a lack of quality back-stage and front of house facilities and a growing list of maintenance issues common to old buildings were evident (including asbestos and lack of provision for disabled performers and visitors). A full building survey, undertaken at the time (2012), gave the building a ten-year lifespan.

The scale of the issues found and Oldham Coliseum’s requirement for better facilities meant that renovating, refurbishing, repurposing or re-investing in the building was not possible. In addition, the size and topography of the site meant that rebuilding on the current site would be restrictive and very expensive as a result. In 2012, both Oldham Coliseum and Oldham Council agreed that a new theatre building on a new site was required.

Since this time, the Council has continued to undertake and pay for structural maintenance required to the building (c.£20k per year for the last  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6