Responding today (Thursday 16 March) to the announcement that Oldham Coliseum will close, Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming said:
“Oldham Coliseum’s closure is a damning indictment of both the Arts Council’s initial decision to cut its funding, and the half-baked plan to throw cash at the council in light of local uproar.
“We should be clear that we are here because of the Arts Council’s strategy, which is made by people who have no understanding of how important this theatre is to its town, Greater Manchester and the North West region’s cultural ecology.
“This is a loss of 20% of theatre acting work in Greater Manchester, and 70 permanent jobs at the theatre. Local employment in the hospitality sector and night-time economy depend on theatres with the history and community connexion of the Oldham Coliseum. This is not a region, a town, or a time, to needlessly lose more jobs from a sustainable industry.
"There has been a lot of dissembling in recent weeks about who is responsible. Last week the Arts Council were clear they were expecting the local authority to come forward with a plan for interim producing theatre provision using funds earmarked for Oldham. Now the human and physical infrastructure which underpins this plan is gone, and the transition funding spent on redundancies to reduce culture, not wages to provide it. This is not what ordinary audiences and taxpayers in Oldham expect or deserve. The Arts Council needs to step in with a plan to safeguard jobs and producing theatre provision in Oldham immediately, not push responsibility onto a local authority creaking from austerity.
“The union remains willing and open to meet to help put together a plan, and we call on the Arts Council and the local authorities in Oldham and Greater Manchester to work with us to do that in a meaningful way.”
Equity North West Councillor Victoria Brazier, the union’s senior elected representative in the region, said:
“I'm devastated to hear that Oldham Coliseum has confirmed that it will close from the end of March. The theatre has been at the geographical and cultural heart of Oldham for over 130 years.
“This is awful news for the brilliant people who work there, the audience that hold the theatre so close to their hearts and for our industry as a whole. Greater Manchester now has only two theatres regularly producing their own work. This certainly isn't levelling up as I understand it.
“I am demanding an urgent meeting with the Arts Council to discuss how they will ensure their funding continues to maintain the 400 paid actor weeks that Oldham Coliseum provided to our working members. The loss of 20% of all actor weeks in the North West is a hit our members can ill afford.”