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Oldham Coliseum Theatre to move after £7m funding boost

Oldham's Coliseum Theatre Image copyright Google
Image caption Oldham's Coliseum Theatre will relocate from Fairbottom Street to a new 550-seat venue on Union Street

A Victorian theatre in Oldham which opened as a circus 130 years ago is to relocate after receiving £7m funding.

The town's Coliseum Theatre will move to a modern 550-seat venue on Union Street in the town's Cultural Quarter after securing an Arts Council grant.

Stars who performed at the current Fairbottom Street site include Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin.

Council leader Jean Stretton said she is "delighted" this "cultural asset" will have "a bright future".

Established in 1885, the Coliseum began life as a circus on Henshaw Street performing to crowds of 3,000 people.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel both performed at the Oldham Coliseum

The wooden theatre was then dismantled and moved, plank by plank, to Fairbottom Street in 1887, becoming a popular music hall visited by stars including Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

More recently, it was the home of the Oldham Repertory Theatre producing original Coronation Street cast members including William Roache, Jean Alexander and Pat Phoenix.

The new facility will be built on the Southgate Street car park site next to the grade-II listed library building, which is to house the Heritage and Arts Centre.

It will house a main auditorium for 550 people and a 170-seat studio theatre, the council said.

Image copyright Oldham Coliseum
Image caption Dame Thora Hird in Saturday Night at the Crown, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, 1956

"It's our responsibility to make a theatre that's right for future generations", the theatre's artistic director, Kevin Shaw, said.

He said the theatre will take "the warmth of our welcome" with it to the new venue "so future residents of Oldham will feel this is a theatre for absolutely everyone."

Project architects Mecanoo aim to get planning permission for their new designs by March 2017 and work is expected to start in April 2018, with the venue set to open in 2020.

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