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The Guardian view on theatres in crisis: a moment to take stock | Editorial

By cancelling all its shows from March, the Oldham Coliseum has thrown down a challenge to both central and local government

Pity the poor Oldham Coliseum. This venerable regional theatre has for some years now been trapped in a push-me-pull-you of ambition versus resources, culminating this week in a decision to cancel all shows from the end of March. The immediate reason is Arts Council England’s decision last November to strike it from the National Portfolio, denying it the £615,182-a-year grant on which it was relying from April. But behind this crisis lies a longer-term struggle to keep running at full throttle in a 138-year-old building that is no longer fit for purpose.

Oldham is one of the areas identified as a priority for investment under the government’s levelling up agenda. So it is particularly ironic that one of the shows the Coliseum has cancelled is a touring co-production based on Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake: a roar of rage about the betrayal of the northern working-class projected through the story of a joiner who is failed by the welfare state after a heart attack renders him unable to work.

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