Oldham Coliseum supporters, residents and famous faces are standing united as they make a reinvigorated call to save their beloved theatre.

Taking place outside the now boarded-up theatre on Fairbottom Street, campaigners gathered in colourful costumes last Saturday (November 11) on what would've been the return of the Coliseum's hotly anticipated pantomime.

The festive panto event had been a sell-out production for the Coliseum for three months of the year, filling its 500 seats, often in two shows per day, and attracting audiences from Oldham and beyond.

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However, after its Arts Council England funding was pulled this year, the theatre was forced to close its doors for good in April.

The Oldham Times: The flash mob paraded through Oldham town centre with some famous faces in towThe flash mob paraded through Oldham town centre with some famous faces in tow (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

While the council revealed a new £24m theatre space is under construction for the town centre, and the Arts Council ringfenced the £1.85m that would've gone to the Coliseum for other arts and culture ventures in the town, "Save Oldham Coliseum" campaigners have been keen to spare the theatre from an even more tragic end.

With fears ramping up that the theatre, which has been gutted of its assets, could degrade or even face demolition, famous names have joined the fight and backed calls to rescue the adored auditorium.

As well as a public group, which is just shy of 800 campaigners, a letter was signed by dozens of celebrities last month, including Julie Hesmondhalgh, Dame Emma Thompson and Sir Ian McKellen.

The letter outlines saving the famous 138-year-old building, highlighting a recent building report that the theatre is "not beyond repair" while echoing concerns that the proposal for the new space is too small for productions, particularly the popular panto.

Following an independent survey on the building, the Coliseum's board of trustees, Duncan Craig OBE, said the building is "not beyond repair and with investment could be used again" though Oldham Council said the Coliseum could not have been saved.

Campaigners, however, are not giving up hope and paraded a panto flash mob outside the theatre and through the town with a fresh ambition to breathe life into the campaign.

The Oldham Times:  Julie Hesmondhalgh and Caroline Clegg Julie Hesmondhalgh and Caroline Clegg (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

The former Coronation Street star and actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, told The Oldham Times: "There is a group of us who are still fighting the good fight to save the Coliseum" and said the day's event was really successful in creating "a bit of momentum".

She added: "It's created a little bit of reassurance for Oldham that the fight isn't over.

"When this place closed, there was a big drive from the people who worked here to go with a bang and not a whimper and have this big show, and I think that was absolutely amazing.

"But, the downside of it was that it did make people feel, well, that's it then, that's the end of the fight.

"So all we're trying to do is keep this issue live."

Julie also said she doesn't know "anyone" in favour of the new theatre plans, reiterating that it's "too small" and "not able to host pantos".

She added: "I think this place, this boarded up sad place behind us, is the jewel in the crown of this town, and everyone understands what that means.

"It really matters."

The Oldham Times: 'Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Oldham, give us a panto' was another chant'Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Oldham, give us a panto' was another chant (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

Joining her in the battle cry was also the former Corrie star, theatre and opera director and Artistic Director of Feelgood Theatre Productions, Caroline Clegg, as well as screenwriter, Ian Kershaw and Hollyoaks actress, Annie Wallace.

Caroline was nominated for an award at the International Opera Awards in Poland just the night before but flew back to Manchester as she said the day was "too important to miss".

She said: "If we lose Oldham Coliseum, we lose the heart of the community and once it's gone, it's gone.

"Irrespective of the planned new build, which I'm a little bit sceptical about if there is money in the coffers with Oldham Council and if there is great, but that design is abysmal and it will fail.

"We will fail to attract collaborations from other companies to keep up the five-star standard, the world-class standard, that was Oldham Coliseum."

Caroline said the fight is now "bigger and better" than ever before and stressed just a "small amount of money" could restore the "magical heart of the community again".

She added: "Get a pantomime on and let's get some collaborations going because we have to save that building."

Ian, an award-winning writer whose scripts had been brought to life on the Coliseum's stage, also said it was a "crying shame" to see the Coliseum closed up on panto night and stressed the campaign is now focused on preserving its history.

The Oldham Times: Susan Twist, Annie Wallace and Ian Kershaw (left to right)Susan Twist, Annie Wallace and Ian Kershaw (left to right) (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

He said: "What we'd like to do is to have positive, constructive conversations with the council because this building has still got a life that is structurally sound.

"Rather than build a new auditorium somewhere else at a very expensive cost, preserve this auditorium and build around it to make a new theatre.

"Preserve the history and so we can bring panto back, not only to Oldham but home-produced theatre in this building."

Meanwhile, Annie, who plays Sally on the Channel 4 soap, said she had dreamed of being in the panto and performing on the Coliseum's stage for more than 20 years since she moved to Manchester.

She said: "I always thought, there's always next year, someday I'll be lucky enough to step on that stage.

"I can't now. That's a bucket list thing gone, that didn't have to be gone."

Annie also described the Coliseum as a "melting pot of talent" that Oldham "sorely needs", not only in terms of its shows and productions but for creative employment in the town and across the North West.

She added: "The Oldham theatre workshop created so many actors that are on our screens every single day.

"The creativity is unbounded and this was its crucible.

"The loss of it to the community for three years, even if this other tiny little theatre goes ahead, it's unconscionable.

"It was almost like a Bastian, holding out against the tide. It's an unfair situation and it's bad for the arts in general."

The Oldham Times: The campaigners said they were hopeful a positive resolution could be madeThe campaigners said they were hopeful a positive resolution could be made (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

Theatre director, writer and actress, Joyce Branagh, who directed countless productions at the theatre, Coliseum actress Susan Twist and actor, Sean Connolly, all got in the panto spirit to join the calls.

Joyce, who is a "panto professional" having won awards for her directing in pantomimes over the years, said the new theatre space isn't equipped for the scale of the Coliseum's famous panto.

She said: "The passion in the amazing pantomimes just won't be possible in the new proposed theatre, which is costing £24 million and I think it would take £300,000 to get (the Coliseum) up and running again.

"I mean literally, do the maths.

"We need it back. We need to have panto in there again next year, don't let us be out here again.

"It's a disgrace."

Finally, Sean, who has been in productions both amateur and professional performances at the Coliseum for more than 14 years, described how the theatre holds a "special place" in his heart and said it had been a "massive part of my life".

He added: "It's emotional because we should all be in there watching the panto now."

When asked if the fight was over, he said: "Someone asked me before, 'Are you hopeful?' and I said, 'I'm more hopeful now than I was three hours ago'."

Sean said the mob walked through the town centre and were greeted with support from shoppers.

He said: "It just goes to show you can't let go of an establishment like this."

If you have a story, I cover all things Oldham from food reviews and local business news to music and events, pubs, education, crime, property, health, community concerns and much more. Please email me at Olivia.bridge@newsquest.co.uk or send me a message on Twitter @Livbridge with your news.