Julie Hesmondhalgh reveals Oldham Coliseum theatre ‘saved’ after campaign

Oldham Coliseum is to reopen following a successful campaign to rescue it led by theatre enthusiasts including actress Julie Hesmondhalgh.

The 54-year-old, known for her roles in Broadchurch and Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, said in a video posted to the Save Oldham Coliseum website that the historic theatre, which closed in 2023, had been “saved” thanks to the “persistence,” “passion,” and “dogged determination” of those who had campaigned.

Oldham Council announced the news at a “special celebration event” on Monday where they revealed the theatre would reopen in time for the 2025 Christmas pantomime season.

Hesmondhalgh, writer Ian Kershaw, and leader of the council, Arooj Shah, were among those who attended the event.

A post from the council’s X account said: “Tonight, at a special celebration event, we announced that the famous Oldham Coliseum Theatre will re-open its doors!

“We’ve listened to local people and can reveal that we will bring the Coliseum back to life in time for the Christmas Panto 2025.”

It added: “Around 100 people, including local residents, performers, politicians and partners, packed out Fairbottom Street in Oldham to hear the good news first-hand.”

The venue, which opened its doors in 1885, announced it would close in 2023 after Arts Council England (Ace) revealed that funding for the venue would be cut.

A string of celebrities offered their support by appearing in a short film called Our Sleeping Beauty (True Love’s Kiss) earlier this year, including Suranne Jones, Christopher Eccleston and Siobhan Finneran.

A new website called Friends Of Oldham Coliseum says there will be pantomime performances at the theatre from December 2025 and a full programme to be announced from January 2026.

Oldham Coliseum faces closure
Members of the audience at a public meeting to save the historic Oldham Coliseum in Greater Manchester (Equity/PA)

Paul W Fleming, general secretary of Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, said: “Equity is incredibly proud to be part of the coalition which has saved the Oldham Coliseum.

“We’re proud to have played our part with rallies, campaigning, and lobbying, but today’s victory lies with that community coalition.

“What is so inspiring is that they have put the workforce at the heart of this campaign – audiences want professionally produced work, at scale, in their communities to tell their stories.

“Again, Arts Council England have huge questions to answer, but they should take this chance to step up and rethink their funding approach.

“The Coliseum’s story of re-establishment and re-invention has just begun.”

Ace has been approached for comment.