THE Octagon Theatre is celebrating after being awarded ­£620,000 in funding.

The cash from the Government’s £1.57bn culture recovery fund will support the theatre’s immediate survival through the most challenging year in the organisation’s history.

The money described as a lifeline, will help the theatre to reopen early next year.

Chief executive Roddy Gauld said: “I’m absolutely relieved and delighted that we’ve been awarded this lifeline ­— 2020 was due to be our big moment as we reopened after two years of reconstruction. Instead, due to the pandemic, we’ve lost most of our income this year. This grant means we have the financial stability we need to open the doors in early 2021. Our opening is now slightly delayed due to some of the new restrictions that are in place and so this funding is now even more welcome.

“We really appreciate this vital Government support. With investment from Bolton Council and the Arts Council, we’ve built a world class new theatre that we’re so excited to open.

“Research shows that for every £1 spent at the theatre, £3 is spent in the surrounding economy. Bolton has had the toughest restrictions in the country and the town has been hit hard. So our re-opening will be an important step in Bolton’s recovery.

“Now that our short-term future is secure until April, we can think more about what the future holds. I think social distancing is here for some time to come and it creates a huge financial gap as well as a physical one.

“When we open, we’ll need to leave most seats empty and ,each empty seat is a financial loss. But with this news today, and with the ongoing commitment of all our audiences and supporters, we’ll fight on.”

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Artistic director Lotte Wakeham (pictured above) added: “This is hugely welcome news, as it has been a very difficult year, with Bolton being particularly badly hit by the pandemic. The Octagon is the cultural heart of the town and we want our fantastic new theatre to be here for years to come, to entertain and inspire our local community.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who has supported us so far. We can’t wait to get back to putting on shows, bringing people together and sharing the talents of amazing local, national and international artists in our beautiful building. We have some really exciting plans in development and we look forward to announcing these soon, and hope to safely welcome everyone into the Octagon in the New Year.”

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Leader of Bolton Council, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority Lead for Culture, Cllr David Greenhalgh, said: “Our famous Octagon Theatre is something everyone in Bolton can be extremely proud of, attracting some of the biggest names to the stage and bringing in visitors into the town centre.

“The Octagon is respected across the sector with an international reputation, and as a council, we were keen to support and invest in its recent renovation and I am delighted and relieved this financial help from the Government will help the theatre deal with the economic

impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I look forward to the reopening and to a time when Bolton residents will enjoy these spectacular new facilities.

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(Octagon's hit production of Shirley Valentine. Picture: The Other Richard)

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As part of our unprecedented £1.57 billion rescue fund, today we’re saving British cultural icons with large grants of up to £3 million – from Shakespeare’s Globe to the Sheffield Crucible. These places and organisations are irreplaceabl e parts of our heritage and what make us the cultural superpower we are. This vital funding will secure their future and protect jobs right away.”

Sarah Maxfield, the area director for Arts Council England, added: “The pandemic has had a massive impact on the whole range of organisations working in the North’s cultural sector ­— theatres, music venues, festivals, museums and the companies who support them with technical sound, light and staging services.”