Oldham Coliseum opens after revamp

Oldham Coliseum Theatre is due to re-open at the end of October after a nine-month refurbishment.

The venue has had essential repair work completed, including a new heating system, asbestos removed from walls and electrics replaced, as well as refurbishment of the front of house facilities.

New seating in the auditorium means the 570-capacity has been reduced to 542. Previously, around 25% of seats had a restricted view of the stage, due to columns, but now there will be around 10% with a restricted view.

The refurbishment was funded by nearly £1.7 million from the local council, Oldham Council, and just under £300,000 from Arts Council England as part of its programme that gives out small capital grants.

Throughout the refurbishment the theatre produced a full summer programme at other sites. The box office was run from a shop in the town centre, while the backstage team worked from a vacant Victorian library in the town centre, with permission from the council.

Kevin Shaw, artistic director of Oldham Coliseum Theatre, explained that he wanted to take advantage of the fact they did not have a permanent theatre, which resulted in a series of experimental performances.

As part of this series, Oldham Coliseum staged its first nationwide tour of a version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, in collaboration with digital arts specialist, Imitating the Dog. It also created an outdoor production in a park and put on performances at local college arts space The Grange Arts Centre.

Shaw said: “We decided we wanted to continue producing to retain our audience and also because we have highly skilled and experienced staff, I wanted to maintain the continuity of our staff and not enter into redundancy. But also it was a great opportunity to take on much more experimental work that we wouldn’t ordinarily do.”

He added: “Everyone is asking if we will continue with these types of shows – particularly the park. I think we will probably continue to do something that is site- specific but it is more likely to be done every other year rather than every year. We will definitely be doing future collaborations with Imitating the Dog.”

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