A new chapter in the rich history of Oldham's 138-year-old 'crown jewel' has just begun as campaigners reveal the boarded-up Coliseum will have a new lease of life as it prepares to reopen the doors once again.

In a special announcement taking place outside the Fairbottom Street theatre, the leader of Oldham Council, Arooj Shah, and avid campaigner at the forefront of the 'save Oldham Coliseum' campaign group, Coronation Street star, Julie Hesmondhalgh, say they are delighted to announce the beloved auditorium will be restored to its former glory - and right on time for pantomime season in 2025.

Speaking ahead of the big reveal, Julie and Arooj told The Oldham Times the rescue mission has been "many months in the making" and has seen the Council, board and campaigners come together to create an action plan which has the "keen interest" of Arts Council England behind it.

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Cllr Shah said work on the currently empty theatre space will start "immediately" with the deadline of the seasonal pantomime to work towards.

She added: "We've been containing this for months, it's been very hard.

The doors to the Coliseum will reopen to the public next Christmas 2025The doors to the Coliseum will reopen to the public next Christmas 2025 (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

"But we just wanted to make it right, but works will begin very soon with the deadline of Christmas 2025 so we can get people back indoors at the site that means so much to them."

Julie continued: "It's an intergenerational thing - so to open with the panto feels significant and then the future is ours.

"This is just the beginning.

"Like a lot of things, you have to lose it before you realise what you're losing and so we're hoping now that the people who made so much noise and were so persistent and amazing about the closure of Fairbottom Street will now get behind the future of it.

"We need everyone to get behind it and renew that sense of ownership and the civic pride of this place - it's brilliant for the locality as well."

Cllr Shah said, as a resident and Oldhamer, she felt as heartbroken as the wider community felt when the theatre lost its Arts Council funding and was forced to close its doors for the final time in March last year.

Since being elected as leader of the council in May 2023, she said she made it one of her "political priorities" to look at the Coliseum and reopen it.

Campaigners last held a panto flash mob outside the beloved theatre last yearCampaigners last held a panto flash mob outside the beloved theatre last year (Image: NQ)

The pair summarised that they felt "excited" and "emotional" to see works begin on the theatre and also thanked the hundreds of people involved in the Save Oldham Coliseum group for keeping the campaign alive and for the power in their voices combined.

In November, the group mobilised outside the auditorium in their panto gear on what would have been the return of the theatre's popular pantomime night, and paraded through the town centre with a reinvigorated cry to "save" the theatre.

Famous faces joined the fight and held banners throughout the "panto flash mob", including Julie alongside her husband and award-winning screenwriter, Ian Kershaw, theatre and opera director and Artistic Director of Feelgood Theatre Productions, Caroline Clegg and Hollyoaks actress, Annie Wallace.

Then in April this year, Save Oldham Coliseum group says it had a "triumphant" reception for its new star-studded short film.

The film, Our Sleeping Beauty, features a poetic tribute from Julie and gained more than 60,000 views in 24 hours since it went live following its private screening at Valentino's restaurant.

The film also features a selection of well known faces from the world of stage, film and television, including Suranne Jones, Shobna Gulati, Christopher Eccleston, and Maxine Peake - who have all backed calls to spare the theatre from permanent closure.

Now, a street party outside the Coliseum is underway where Arooj, Julie and other leaders in the campaign are set to deliver their hotly anticipated announcement to residents - and celebrate this pivotal moment.

Fairbottom Street will shortly be springing to life with music, dancing and "community spirit" from 6.30pm to 8pm tonight (Monday, July 8), with a brass band, performances and dancing to boot.

Julie is expected to recite the poem from the film as an "ode to the much-cherished Coli" - and local bars and restaurants that have suffered since the Coliseum’s closure will provide the food and beverages for the street party.

Work will begin on restoring the Coliseum 'imminently' Work will begin on restoring the Coliseum 'imminently' (Image: Newsquest, Olivia Bridge)

Julie added: "The public outcry that followed last year's closure of Oldham's beloved Coli, from audiences and artists alike, made national news.

"Since then, a dedicated group of campaigners have been working tirelessly to fight for the jewel in Oldham's crown to be reopened and restored to her former glory.

"It is because of a board dedicated to the continuance of the Coliseum's cultural offer, the passion and persistence of a dogged band of campaigners, and a council willing to listen to its citizens that we've arrived at this point." 

Ian Kershaw, BAFTA, Bruntwood, award-winning writer and "Oldham-er" added: "The legendary, internationally famous Oldham Coliseum is the town's beating heart of art and culture.

"Audience members from Oldham and across the country have joined us to urge the people in power to think again.

"This event celebrates a passionate campaign and marks an incredible moment in the fight to save our theatre.” 

Members of Oldham Council, who are supporting the event, and board members of the Oldham Coliseum are also in attendance.

It is hoped the community-driven street party will highlight the Coliseum's significance as a cultural landmark and celebrate its efforts to secure the theatre's future. 

This celebration comes at a time when Oldham is set to receive significant attention in other upcoming announcements related to housing projects, high street investments, and other developments, where the Coliseum is earmarked as playing a "central role" in revitalising the town centre.

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.