What goes on behind closed doors

On Monday 16 March 2020 we closed our doors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Creating and experiencing art and culture has a phenomenal impact on both physical and mental wellbeing. Whilst our stage is dark and our workshop spaces empty, our work is always needed. The Coliseum continues to serve the communities of Oldham and Greater Manchester, reaching out and engaging with participants of all ages and producing and sharing great art and opportunities to be creative both online and via socially distanced distribution of physical resources.

Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to and what we’ve achieved behind closed doors:



Co-produced our very own online murder mystery, Whodunnit at the Coliseum? (running 9-25 April 2021)

With ‘50s inspired musical numbers, unashamed murder mystery stereotypes and heaps of suspicious activity, Whodunnit at the Coliseum? is set at the Coliseum in 1954, on the opening night of Shakespeare’s Macbe…The Scottish Play. The tongue-in-cheek interactive experience is part theatre, part film, part video game.



Provided 7 new Micro Commissions to create work for audiences to experience online

Exploring health and wellbeing, local stories or work for and with young people from Oldham, Micro Commissions 2021 supports the creation of seven new works designed to be experienced digitally, offering investment, support and a virtual platform to create new work for and about the world as we live in it today.



Begun work with 25 new young people across our Pathways programmes.

Teaching Theatre Pathways is our UK Theatre Award nominated flagship training programme for young people who are not currently in employment, education or training. Not to be hindered by the pandemic, in 2021 we took Teaching Theatre online with a dynamic six-week course developing creative and employability skills. In January 2021 we also collaborated with The Prince’s Trust to run the Get Started With Theatre course online.



Produced a package of digital offers for the Festive season, which were viewed over 30,000 times

The Coliseum’s annual pantomime is a huge part of Christmas in Oldham, with 35,000 people coming to see us each year. As 2020’s pantomime had to be postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis we created three digital offers for our audiences:

Panto Digital Storytelling was a virtual one-person telling of a pantomime story, giving you the opportunity to invite Cinderella or Dame Dotty Trott into your homes to hear their side of their famous tales.

Advent Plays are 24 short plays based on a Christmas theme, one released each day on the Coliseum’s Social Media Channels in the lead up to Christmas.

Messages from the Dame was a chance to celebrate the achievements of people in our communities with a special message from Dame Dotty Trott.

With an offer to suit all ages and tastes, our festive digital work was viewed almost 30,000 times



Distributed over 200 creative craft packs for people in our communities for our creative community projects – Stitch and Stamp

Our Learning and Engagement department have created two craft packs for people from across Oldham and its surrounding communities so that they have the resources to take part in creative activities at home. We have been distributing the packs from a safe social distance since May 2020.

In partnership with Women’s Chai ProjectHousing 21Jigsaw Homes and Pakistani Community CentreStitch invited individuals and groups to create patches of positivity responding to the theme of ‘togetherness’. The patches were sewn together into a patchwork quilt by our professional Wardrobe team, and displayed in Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre. 

Launched in January 2021, Stamp asks people to create postcards using artwork and poetry based on the theme of Connection. Postcards can be sent to a friend or family member you are currently separated from or returned to the Coliseum to share with Oldham’s communities. The free Stamp activity pack contains poetry exercises designed by award-winning poet Nasima Begum



Co-commissioned a local artist to create the Poetry Health Service

From Coliseum Associate Artist Hafsah Aneela Bashir, the Poetry Health Service (PHS) is a free online service which champions the importance of art to support mental and emotional wellbeing. Available by a dedicated website and phoneline the PHS gifts users a poem from a collection of exciting, inspiring, heart-warming and healing poetry by writers from across the world tailored by their responses to a colour-based flowchart. Click here to visit the Poetry Health Service



Produced a package of fun activities for families, #ColiseumCreates

#ColiseumCreates invites families to get creative outdoors, learn how to become a superhero, become storytellers using our Coliseum Cubes and see if little ones can recognise some Oldham landmarks whilst they give the Coliseum a bit of colour. 

Young people and adults can design costumes for three charismatic characters, find the perfect place in your home to set a play, write a monologue exploring lockdown or write a duologue for some colourful characters who have previously graced the Coliseum stage. Each activity has been created with an age range in mind, and can be adapted for all to enjoy. 



Supported over 300 freelance artists through the GM Artist Hub advisory sessions

Arts organisations across Greater Manchester have come together to offer our support to independent practitioners, artists and companies in our region. The GM Artist Hub offers free 30 minute advisory sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays plus select group workshops and funding opportunities. Learn more here



Held 30 workshops online

Alongside Teaching Theatre Pathways and Get Started With Theatre, (above) our script writing group, Scribbles led by Amie George, moved online, plus our Youth Steering Group (TSG) had special digital sessions and theatre practitioner Rachel McMurray led a two-part Zoom session on Applied Theatre.



Live streamed a gig featuring songs from previous Coliseum shows to over 400 people (almost a full auditorium)

On Thursday 30 April 2020 actor and musician Lauryn Redding performed a free gig on the Coliseum’s Instagram Live. Lauryn is well-known to Coliseum audiences from her performances in The Hired Man (2019), Bread & Roses (2018), Up ‘N’ Under (2017), Oh What A Lovely War (2017) and Dreamers (2015). Her gig on the Coliseum Instagram featured a mix of original songs, covers and songs from previous Coliseum productions.



Shared our 2019 musical The Hired Man with over 12,500 people online

Alongside our co-producers Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Hull Truck Theatre we streamed summer 2019’s hit The Hired Man online for a week, allowing audiences across the country (and indeed the world) to relive all the emotion of Melvin Bragg and Howard Goodall’s epic musical in our multi-award nominated production.



Made regular phone calls to participants who are at risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation due to the lockdown

In more normal times the Coliseum hosts multiple groups, giving people from our communities the opportunity to meet socially in a welcoming, creative and safe space. We’ve made sure to keep in touch with members of those groups who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation at home throughout the pandemic. A friendly voice over the phone can go a long way.



Produced a Mini-Podcast Series sharing over 20 new audio-plays, ranging from 100 words to 20 minutes

Launched on World Theatre Day 2020 (27 March), our Mini-Podcast Series shares original works by people of all ages and backgrounds from our communities, recorded remotely by professional actors, with an introduction from the theatre’s Artistic Director Chris Lawson and edited by the theatre’s Digital Associate Grant Archer.

The series includes new works by well-known names, disabled artists, professional playwrights, emerging writers and young people from the local area. The Coliseum’s Mini-Podcast Series is available on all the usual streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Podcasts. You can also access it via our website



Engaged over 250 Young People in two creative writing challenges

From the creative engine of our Learning and Engagement Department The ‘Off Out’ Monologue Challenge and the ‘Take Two’ Duologue Challenge helped young people to keep their creative spirits alive in lockdown.

Inspired by the UK lockdown the ‘Off Out’ Monologue Challenge invited young people to write about a character’s once-daily trip out of the house. Three of the submitted monologues were chosen to be recorded by professional actors for Episode 2 of our Mini-Podcast Series.

The ‘Take Two’ Duologue Challenge invited young people to imagine a scene in which characters from different Coliseum productions met, asking what they would think of each other and what they would say.




Updated  25 March 2021

Join The Newsletter