After two years the multi-million pounds rebuild at Bolton’s Octagon is over and they reopen their doors on Friday 4th December.
But theatre goers will have to wait a bit longer to sit in the new auditorium as they are only opening their spanking new Kitchen & Bar, a friendly space for casual eating, drinking and socialising. They will also be hosting some creative workshops, along with a series of festival events.
The delay to the building caused by the pandemic, and the lack of a date from the government of when it will be safe for audiences to return without social distancing, means the Octagon have taken the difficult decision to postpone their previously announced productions.
Their intriguing new musical version of Charles Dickens’ festive classic A Christmas Carol will be postponed until Christmas 2021. The productions of Vinay Patel’s epic drama, An Adventure. and the world premiere of a new musical adaptation of the bestselling novel The Book Thief, both due to be staged in early 2021, will also be rescheduled with dates to be confirmed.
The Young Octagon’s production of One Night in Bolton will now be reimagined as a radio world premiere. The theatre has plans in place to stage alternative productions in the main theatre from early 2021 with titles and ticket details to be announced in the autumn.
This new programme of productions and other activities are being planned on the assumption that social distancing will still be in place, in line with current government guidance. This will mean a significant loss in future revenue due to the need to restrict audience numbers. The theatre is encouraging supporters to join its Membership scheme as means of continuing their support during this challenging recovery period for the Octagon.
“We enjoyed a record breaking 50th anniversary before two years working in different spaces across Bolton whilst the theatre was being redeveloped,” notes Chief Executive Roddy Gauld.“We were so close to reopening when Covid-19 hit and robbed us of not only our reopening but also risked our entire existence. The financial losses are huge and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported us so far.
“Although we’re getting ready to open the doors, we are still fighting for our future. Social distancing creates financial gaps as well as physical ones. We typically need at least 75% of seats to be sold in order for a show to be financially viable. Social distancing will reduce our capacity to just 25%. We have no choice but to postpone our planned shows and recognise that we’re far from over this crisis yet. Our staff are still on furlough and we have no guarantee of further government support.
“The Octagon generates millions of pounds for Bolton every year and we welcome thousands of visitors from across the region. Opening our doors isn’t only about getting the theatre open – it’s about getting our town centre, our cultural life and the local economy going again. I’m incredibly grateful to all of our supporters, including Bolton Council and the Arts Council, whose funding has made the redevelopment possible.”.
Before the theatre reopens to welcome visitors it plans to reach audiences digitally with a brand-new online production co-produced with Guildford Shakespeare Company – a Zoom production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.Directed by Octagon Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham, this ‘made for online’ production will be available to watch live in the autumn with dates and ticket details to be announced Tuesday 1st September with priority booking available for Members.
“We are currently developing an exciting new programme of work for December 2020 – Spring 2021 which will continue our 50-year tradition of making world class theatre in Bolton,” says Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham.
“It’s disappointing to not be able to present the season of work we had originally planned for the reopening of the theatre. However, the safety of our audiences, actors and staff must come first. This, along with the financial pressure we face as a result of social distancing, means that the only responsible action is to postpone our large, ambitious shows which were due to play to huge audiences.
“I’m grateful to all the brilliant local, national and international artists we’re working with for their patience and positivity. We are working on a new exciting programme to be announced in the autumn which I hope will be the start of our recovery towards a bold and adventurous future.”
The Octagon Future Fund launched in May has raised nearly £50,000 to support the theatre through the Covid-19 crisis. As a registered charity the theatre is reliant on support, and at this critical time for the arts industry the Octagon is asking audiences to sign up as Members to be part of the Octagon family at the same time as helping secure its future.
To find out more and join as a Member visit octagonbolton.co.uk/members
The Octagon Box office will be contacting ticket holders directly and the theatre asks for patience as they reach everyone affected as soon as possible. For more information please see our Frequently Asked Questions at octagonbolton.co.uk/faqs