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Bolton Octagon announces date for reopening following two-year construction project

The venue plans to begin performances in early 2021

Bolton Octagon

Bolton's Octagon Theatre will open its doors to visitors in December, following a two-year development project.

Though not initially staging shows, the theatre will open its kitchen and bar on 4 December, as well as mount festive events for the surrounding community over the winter period.

The venue plans to present its first live shows in early 2021, with specific productions and plans to be revealed depending on the future course of the pandemic. News is expected in the autumn.

However, its previously announced productions (a new version of A Christmas Carol, a revival of An Adventure and new musical version of The Book Thief) will all be moved to new dates, to be revealed.

Chief executive Roddy Gauld comments: "The last few years have been a real rollercoaster for the Octagon and I'm so relieved and delighted that we now have a new opening date. We enjoyed a record breaking 50th anniversary before two years working in different spaces across Bolton whilst the theatre was being redeveloped. 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 per cent of seats to be sold in order for a show to be financially viable. Social distancing will reduce our capacity to just 25 per cent. 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."

Artistic director Lottie Wakeham added: "We are currently developing an exciting new programme of work for December 2020 to Spring 2021 which will continue our 50-year tradition of making world-class theatre in Bolton. 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 venue will also present an online Zoom production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with audiences able to experience the show from 1 September.