THE dream has become a reality! Bolton’s multi-million pound, new-look Octagon Theatre will open its doors to the public for the first time in July.

Two world premieres, a regional first and a total re-working of a classic will all form part of the first season of shows to be performed at the theatre.

But before then, the Octagon will host a Housewarming Party - weekend-long celebration on Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 - when we get the first chance to see the amazing transformation that has taken place.

At a special launch event, Octagon chief executive Roddy Gauld, said: “The Octagon is part of a community that stretches way beyond our building and far beyond Bolton.

“But after decades of hard work, the building was struggling. It leaked, the back stage area was dilapidated, the glazing was failing, the public areas were cramped, disability access was inadequate and the queues for the loos were unbearable.

“Redevelopment has not been easy and there have been numerous obstacles and setbacks beyond our control which had added time and cost to the work, The theatre sits on incredibly tight site and many who have worked on the project have said it’s been the single most complicated job they have ever had but result will be well worth it.

“After two years of redevelopment, the building is bigger, more welcoming and the facilities will be exceptional. The intimate auditorium has been preserved and modernised and is the beating heart of our building. In preserving our history we have created a warm, modern and creative building and all the people who bring it to life will be the beating heart of our town.”

Mr Gauld said he was proud of the fact the Octagon was the first construction project in the £1.5 billion regeneration project for the town.

“The work has given us far more than a theatre, but theatre remains at the core of what we do,” he said.

As part of the £12 million ‘reimagining’ of the Octagon a new two-storey bar and kitchen area have been create and the theatre is now 25 per cent bigger than before.

There will also be a new Crescent Room which will be available for conferences, meetings and parties, a new Studio theatre, improved rehearsal space and an upgrading of all the facilities.

New removable seating has been installed in the main auditorium making the performance space even more flexible.

Dave Jennings lead architect on project said: “It has been in pipeline for such a long time and we are excited to see it come to fruition.

“The whole experience has been amazing. It is good to work with creative people.

“We have worked in and around Bolton at the Albert Halls and the museum and to move over to the theatre has been fantastic for us.

“The Octagon has been such a big part of the history of Bolton, so to carve out a new future for the theatre has been an honour.

“Now we are really looking forward to see what the Octagon can make of the spaces we have provided.”

Lotte Wakeham, the Octagon’s artistic director, said: “The new building is bigger, better and more accessible and we can’t wait to throw the doors open and welcome everyone in.”

She revealed that the Housewarming Party would feature four performances of a specially-commissioned one-act play, One Night in Bolton, performed by Young Octagon - a new group featuring gifted young performers from Bolton and a large community choir.

“It will be a love letter to the theatre and to the town,” she said.

In August, the Octagon will hoist a two-week festival - Get Creative - with a wide range of activities and workshops before the first production takes to the stage in September.

“I wanted the first production to be a real crowd pleaser and give everyone a great night out,” said Lotte, “and One Man, Two Guvnors will be the perfect way to welcome in a new era.”

She also revealed that the new season will include two world premieres including The Book Thief, a musical based on the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak.

“It has been adapted by a particularly stellar team,” she said. “It is a real coup for us to be staging this world premiere. We wanted a show that the audience could say ‘I saw that in Bolton first’.”

Ath the season launch, Joe Carr, managing director of Carr’s Pasties major supporters of the Octagon said: “The Octagon is integral to this town. The whole crew have been amazing and it feels like a family when walk through door.

“The Octagon represents far more than just a theatre. It really puts Bolton on the map and this whole project has been so inspiring.”

Roddy Gauld added: “We want future generations to enjoy the Octagon as generations have done over the years.”