THE Octagon has said a huge thank you to the people of Bolton and The Bolton News readers for supporting it through its most challenging time in its 50 year history.

More than £50,000 has been raised so far to help secure the Octagon's future in the town as coronavirus takes it toll on the industry ­— both through lost income and the impact of social distancing will have during live performances

The pandemic struck during what should have been an exciting year for the theatre as it prepared to raise the curtain on its world class transformation, but now the Octagon is facing losses of £500,000 in income.

In late May, the theatre launched its Octagon Future Fund in late May, and hundreds of people rallied to make donations.

The Bolton News:

(Roddy Gauld with Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham)

Chief Executive Roddy Gauld said: “Everybody at the Octagon has been really touched and thrilled by the donations and kind comments we’ve received. Over 700 people have donated over £50,000 so far. Some have given thousands of pounds to help us, which is extraordinarily generous. Thanks to everyone to has supported us, we’re really grateful.

"Thanks also to Bolton News for all the coverage of our appeal and raising awareness of the Octagon’s plight. Bolton News readers have been especially supportive.

"It’s great to have our local paper championing a local charity.

"With thanks to Bolton Council and Arts Council England among other funders, our world class theatre will soon be completed.

"The Octagon generates millions every year to the local economy and attracts thousands of visitors to Bolton: every week we are closed the town is losing out, not just the Octagon.

"We will be applying for some of the Government’s emergency support for the cultural sector but our success is not guaranteed and a decision could be up to two months away. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported our Future Fund – their generosity has helped us get this far and put the theatre back on more solid ground to plan for our future.

"Social distancing will have a profound effect on theatre. We typically need at least 75 per cent of seats to be sold for a show to be financially viable. With social distancing that number of people just won’t be possible. We are reviewing every aspect of our organisation to find a way forward that is artistically exciting, inclusive of our whole community and financially sustainable. We are determined that we will be back.

"We cannot wait for the day we can open our doors and let people in and will announce a new re-opening date in due course."

The Bolton News:

(Smash-hit Shirley Valentine produced by the Octagon)

Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Linda Thomas has chosen the Octagon, as one of her charities for which she will raise money for during her mayoral year.

She said: " The Octagon has stood for over 50 years now, inspiring and enthusing audiences from Bolton and surrounding region. It really is the jewel in Bolton’s crown. It stands in the heart of the civic centre, part of our cultural quarter alongside our museum and library and it is a very important part of our regeneration of Bolton town centre."

Cllr Martyn Cox, deputy leader of Bolton Council, said: "The council and the Arts Council both support the Octagon and fundraising is an important part of the finances for the theatre. We are very lucky to have a producing theatre in Bolton and I am pleased that so many people have donated to support the Octagon.

"It is a very worrying time for theatres, but the Government has put forward a generous package to support the arts and we all look forward to when the Octagon is open.

"It has a terrific reputation which has been built on its quality performances which people enjoy and this should continue."